Children these days are so selfish. While I can't really speak to the experience of being pregnant myself, I've vicariously lived through dozens of friends who have become mothers over the years, and the one thing I learned from all of them is that for nine months (technically ten), you have barely any control over what's going on with your own body, and for some women, that can be an intensely terrifying experience. It's those horrors, as well as the pain of grief, that Alice Lowe explores in Prevenge, in which the only way her character can cope with the loss of her boyfriend is to destroy those responsible for his untimely demise, all while being prodded on by the voice of her unborn child.

More than seven months pregnant herself, writer/director/lead actress Alice Lowe stars as Ruth, a bit of a misanthrope who is coping with a huge loss in her life, a loss that happens the very same day she finds out that she’s expecting. Feeling completely isolated in the world, Ruth is compelled to right the wrongs that she’s suffered, so she begins to hunt down those who were on the rock climbing expedition along with her boyfriend, and punish them for allowing him to die while they all lived. Her inability to cope with the circumstances manifests itself through her daughter taunting her from the womb, who, in Ruth’s mind, is manipulating her emotions in an effort to get justice for the hardships she’s been facing since the loss of her other half.

As she ticks down her list of victims, we see how Ruth has to hilariously deal with the various murders, but it’s on Halloween night when she has her ultimate confrontation with the climbing instructor who decided to cut the rope which caused the accident, but she realizes his wife is also pregnant, and Ruth finds herself conflicted in a way she hadn’t been before. Facing her future as a single parent still in the throes of grieving, Ruth struggles with whether or not she’s fully prepared to doom someone else to the same cruel fate as herself.

With Prevenge, Lowe doesn't offer up any easy answers, nor does she give us a cookie-cutter ending. She boldly confronts some rather unpleasant emotions that Ruth deals with throughout the story, so when her character declares, "I'd give her [the baby] up just to have him back," it's an appalling statement when you think about it on a basic level. But as you peel back the layers, you can feel how deeply Ruth's grief is ingrained within her psyche. To this mom-to-be, her impending bundle of joy is simply there, and other than their "exchanges," she feels no real emotional connection to the baby growing inside of her. It's her excuse to murder and try to right the wrong that took away her beloved, but the further along her murder spree progresses, she quickly understands that in the end, none of this will ever bring back that missing piece of her life.

Fiercely funny with a pitch-black tone, Prevenge shows Ruth interacting with the rest of society with a sense of acerbic awkwardness—something I not only can relate to, but really appreciate, because normal folks can just be the worst sometimes. Prevenge explores these interactions with a heightened surrealism. There is always this weird kind of attention that pregnant women attract, and seeing how Ruth often rebuffs those interactions is both hilarious and steeped in a shockingly blunt sense of realism.

I’ve been a fan of Lowe’s work in front of the camera for a long time now (two of my personal favorite performances from her are in Sightseers and Hot Fuzz), but it’s so great to see her using her talents as both a writer and director here. Her approach to the themes of Prevenge are bold and funny, and even though Ruth is a murderer, there’s a bit of fragility and sadness to the character and her situation, making it easy to sympathize with her plight. Also, I thought it was a lovely touch that Ruth kisses the forehead of all her victims, almost like a motherly gesture, and the scene after she finally gives birth just wrecked me (which I mean in the best possible way).

A beautifully horrific, pitch-black comedy that perfectly nails the complexities of love, loss, and motherhood, Prevenge is a stunning debut from Lowe, and I hope we get more projects like this from her in the future.

Movie Score: 4/5


Stay tuned to Daily Dead for more reviews and interviews from SXSW, and in case you missed it, check out our previous coverage of the film festival.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.