J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

BUFF ’17: Prevenge

Ruth probably takes reasonable precautions during her pregnancy, like only smoking filtered cigarettes and drinking clear booze. Granted, committing violent spree murders seems like a source of unnecessary physical stress, but you can’t blame her for it. She is convinced each killing was planned by her unborn daughter. Things will get messy in director-screenwriter-star Alice Lowe’s Prevenge (trailer here), the opening night film of the 2017 Boston Underground Film Festival, which now streams exclusively on Shudder.

Her first victim will be a lewd pet shop proprietor. Her second vic will be an even crasser jerkheel. Yes, Prevenge has plenty of feminist implications, but they will be complicated by her subsequent victim, an ice cold professional woman named Ella. In fact, Ruth will become downright distressed when her collection of embryonic tissue insists a conspicuously nice dude will have to die, so she can reach her next intended prey. At this point, it should be clear to all her targets are not randomly selected. They are linked in a very personal way.

Ruth’s pregnancy certainly looks convincing, because Lowe really was expecting during the filming. That sounds absolutely exhausting, but at least she was able to channel her discomfort into on-screen mayhem. She has a knack for delivering bracingly caustic lines and has the power to summon some wickedly potent fierceness. Lowe truly makes Ruth a force to be reckoned with, but she still manages to evoke the insecurities that plague her.

As befits a semi-pseudo-feminist horror film, the strongest support comes from Jo Hartley as her chipper Health Service midwife, who is only partially aware of the awkwardness of the platitudes she tells Ruth. Tom Davis and Dan Renton Skinner also make strong impressions as her absolutely odious early victims.

Lowe previously co-wrote and co-starred in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers with Steve Oram, which should give you a sense of her genre sensibilities. Yet, Prevenge is a more restrained and ultimately more tragic film. It sees the miserable in British working class miserabalism, but adds a lot of blood and sarcasm to making rather transgressively fun. Recommended for fans of horror movies with attitude, Prevenge is now streaming on Shudder after kicking off this year’s BUFF.

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