Supremely dark, with style cues taken from Dario Argento, Andrezej Zulawski, and Gasper Noé. I was also reminded of Peter and Paul from Michael Haneke's Funny Games during a few of the scenes where Ruth converses with the baby growing inside her.
Prevenge is definitely a horror film, but more psychological than 'jump-out-of your-seat' scary. There are a few gory murders that might push the faint of heart over the edge, but nothing too disgusting. The synth-y soundtrack by Toydrum is excellent and succeeds at creating a specific mood for the world of the movie without taking us directly back to the 80's. I have a strong affinity for movies that exist outside of time and place and Prevenge is one of them. I guess it takes place in London in/around 2016, but it doesn't feel like 2016 London (or any other city) at all.
(Side note: why the fuck did Haneke remake Funny Games? The American version is shot-for-shot identical to the German version and who the fuck gave him funding for this narcissistic passion project? I read a CinemaBlend interview with him where he said this about the remake: "I didn’t have to add anything, and just to change it a little bit I thought was dishonorable. If at all, it became almost a gamble with myself, whether I was able to do the exact same film under very different circumstances." Sigh. I really like Haneke, but this makes me irrationally angry.)
Best time to watch:
When your friends start having babies and you think to yourself, "hmm... this is some weird shit." As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, I'm not really sure how people make the decision to have kids. It seems crazy to me! I could have $1M in the bank, a wonderful job, and steady relationship, but still feel ill-equipped to bring another human into this fucked up world... where the people in charge of the country are narcissistic dickbags that don't care about the planet, gender equality, or education.
If I ever decide to have a kid, I think the actual pregnancy will be the toughest part. The fear of the unknown and utter lack of control might cause me to have a psychotic break. The pregnancy part is also crazy because even women who aren't single mothers basically have to deal with that shit alone. Your body changes; you are responsible for staying healthy; you feel the baby moving inside of you. Your partner might be there to help, but they aren't affected in the same way. So even if you make the decision to have a baby together and plan to raise it together, the person who gives birth is disproportionately impacted during the pregnancy stage.
Prevenge does a great job of exploring some of these fears and is an especially interesting watch for anyone who has considered some of the frightening, oft-ignored facets of pregnancy.
Worst time to watch:
When you're pregnant and already anxiety spiraling about whether you're going to be a good mom/the fact that another human is growing inside you. For the non-anxiety ridden expectant mother, this might be a really cathartic viewing experience. It shrugs off many of the labels placed on pregnant women and gives them a sense of agency and understanding that the real world often does not.
Where to watch:
On Shudder (you can sign up for a free trial here).
Ruth is nearing the end of her pregnancy and bitter as fuck because her husband is dead and her unborn child has been successfully convincing her to murder people. The plot makes it sound really stupid and after watching the trailer, my expectations were pretty low; however, Prevenge is awesome.
I loved this movie and I'm now low-key obsessed with Alice Lowe. She's the badass who wrote, directed, and starred in Prevenge while seven months pregnant. In an interview with The Guardian, Lowe says,
In a way, being pregnant liberated me: I’m doing this, it might be my last chance to direct anything,” she says. “I don’t know if it was hormones, but I just felt like: ‘This is fine, I can do this.’ And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter – it’s not the most important thing in my life.
What a refreshing way to approach art/work.
I have to admit that at first, I was unsure about how much of the baby voice-over I could tolerate. It seemed like an annoying, stupid gimmick that the film used as a "show, don't tell" crutch, but by the end, I was sold. It also helped that the baby's dialogue became funnier and more sardonic as the film progressed. (The baby book, however, is a different story.)
To build the baby up as an evil, blood thirsty creature out for "prevenge" only to have that conception come crashing down post-birth is genius. The baby isn't the monster... Ruth is. And this is a story of revenge, not prevenge. The baby is Ruth's scapegoat and before she's even born, it's clear that she's going to need years of therapy to sort out the trauma that her mother is sure to inflict (that is, if she decides to stick around instead of embarking on another murderous rampage).
The husband backstory reminded me of Neil Marshall's The Descent, another feminist horror film that I very much enjoyed. It added a layer of understanding to the nature of Ruth's actions. Of course Ruth is bitter and worried about her baby's future; her partner died in a tragic accident and she's had to deal with the entire pregnancy on her own. It makes sense that she would loathe and want to punish the people who were involved.
As a viewer, it's easy to understand the motivation behind her actions and even sympathize with her to a certain extent. The film does a brilliant job of making the backstory clear (husband sacrificed his life during a climbing accident so that several other people could live) without providing too many details about the how and the why. We know the people Ruth attacks were somehow involved in her husband's death, but the film doesn't explain the specific roles they played during the accident, so their deaths feel unjustified. Ruth isn't exactly Beatrix Kiddo and I never got the sense that the film wanted us to root for her.
In fact, the film has her kill Josh, one of the most likable and undeserving characters. He's kind to her! They have a good rapport and he gives her some of his spaghetti. No one who freely offers up his spaghetti deserves to be bludgeoned to death. But as Ruth and her baby discuss afterwards, she had to kill him because he was a witness to her crime and "no one called Josh is not going to tell the authorities."
If you have a dark sense of humor, this film is actually very funny. Not really "hah hah" funny, but "wow, some people really have a gift for meanness that I appreciate when it's not directed at me" kind of funny. The aforementioned line about people named Josh made me laugh, along with Ruth's delivery when she told the dog, "get away, you're not helping" as she struggled to squeeze through his doggie dog. Oh, and she said this about anchovies:
They look like the eyelids of old men that have died.
Is that not the truest thing you've ever heard?
For some (like this dickhole film critic and people who have trouble suspending their disbelief), Prevenge might seem sloppy and tonally strange, but I suspect that anyone who actually gives it a chance will be happy they watched.