Pregnancy is rife for metaphor. The fact that another cognoscente being is being developed inside of another cognoscente being, all while demanding nutrition and altering chemistry, is a fact that sounds more like fiction of the science variety. The realization that our humanity is reducible to biology and chemistry is both disturbing and awe-inspiring. What, then, would happen if those biological siphons started demanding things that weren’t socially acceptable? Socially unacceptable things like…murder? Well that conceit is the groundwork for the new film by Alice Lowe, Prevenge.
The metaphor for pregnancy found throughout the running time of Prevenge is one of loss of control. A pregnant woman, Ruth, has lost control of everything. Her career, her personal life, her own body, all seem to be spiraling out of control. The rest of the running time is Ruth responding with the chaos with the method of appeasement. If she can appease the tiny voice inside her then maybe, just maybe, she can grasp at control again.
From here, a cohesion to her chaos is revealed, a warped plan to restore order. Her murderous rage is given focus and purpose, all from the tiny voice coming from inside her. This is also when the film loses a large portion of its nuance. It becomes a classic “girl in peril” type of horror film. This is not to say it isn’t successful within this format, but given its setup and the promise found in specific sequences, it is a bit disappointing to see it revert to a classic genre film.
That doesn’t mean that Prevenge isn’t unique. It is. The two things that really makes it so is the humor and Alice Lowe herself. Even considering that the humor is jet black, the jokes keep this film afloat in the genre sea it finds itself in. In the same vein, the charm and ease of Lowe’s performance is placating and disarming to the point that it seems a bit more layered than other films of its ilk.
There is no question that these two elements make Prevenge a good film. The trouble is that Prevenge continually hints at being a great film. As stated above, pregnancy is rife for metaphor. There are so many layers of possibility that come to mind when the synopsis of Prevenge is read. Sadly, the film plays it relatively straight as a damaged woman struggling for control in a chaotic world. To be fair, though, it isn’t really fair to judge a film on what a viewer can imagine it being. It should only be judged on what it is. Even on this level, however, Prevenge still feels like it rushes over the surface of many great ideas and questions without ever really taking the time to address them.
So Prevenge is a good film, there is no doubt about that, but it does manage to feel a little underwhelming in its approach. The narrative and the direction seems to be reigned back in the name of keeping it all safe. While this is fine in the sense of making a quality film in the lineage of the fragile woman horror trope films, it also prevents it from branching out into the territory it seems to be so obviously hinting at.