Ruth (Alice Lowe) is nearing the end of her pregnancy, but it's a state that has given her little pleasure, for she feels as if her bundle of joy has taken over her entire mental capacity, and is dreading what the baby will be like when she finally emerges into the world. To illustrate: she goes along to a pet shop that sells exotic animals to its customers, and the proprietor (Dan Renton Skinner) is keen to show her all his wares thanks to her expressing an interest in buying something for her eight-year-old son. But Ruth does not have a son, eight-year-old or otherwise, and she has an ulterior motive for being there, she's not interested in the creatures that revolt her, lizards and spiders and whatever, she's more interested in a larger beast that revolts her more...
The story behind Prevenge is almost as good as the story in the film. Writer, director and star Lowe was keen to continue acting even as she was pregnant, but found she was having difficulty finding work, nobody wants to hire an actual pregnant lady to play the same, it would seem, so she dreamt up a script by herself, to give her something to do as she neared the birth. Seven months into the experience, which was fuelling her writing as she described the feeling of being taken over by the needs of her foetus as akin to turning into a werewolf, the cameras started rolling, and eleven days later she had enough footage to edit together into what quickly became both critically acclaimed and a cult movie.
It was easy to see the influence of the previous film she had a hand in writing, Sightseers, and the sense of humour that exhibited was much the same, only here the meanspirited quality of what we were watching was more successful artistically, thanks to the novelty value of Lowe's premise. We are supposed to believe, as Ruth does, that her unborn child is directing her to bump off a bunch of people she has accused of responsibility for the death of the child's father. We do not find out precisely how accurate this claim is, nor if the victims and potential victims actually deserve the fate that Ruth inflicts upon them, or plans to, but watching a pregnant woman, played by an actress genuinely in that condition, was curiously compelling.
Lowe was not your average movie psycho, for a start; in many of those basic slashers you did not see the killers' perspectives set out since they were presented as the "other", the outsider who attacks the insiders, often a faceless menace whose motives are not clear until the finale. Here, however, Ruth is central to the drama, and the comedy for that matter, constantly posing as different "characters" to invite her way into her targets' lives, even though she was obviously recognisable as the pregnant lady in each case. Then, and this was where the biggest laughs came, she would let her mask slip and come out with a comment that exposed her disdain or disgust for the person she was interacting with, which was funny because Ruth was surprisingly inept at keeping up her façade with regards to her schemes.
What she was not inept at was doing the deed, as the bodies mounted up and we start to wonder if she will ever be caught. Time and again she comes across to us as patently disturbed, but everyone around her expect Ruth to be excited about becoming a mother and therefore must be in a very good mood: her medical worker (Jo Hartley) is amusingly clueless in spite of all the clues sent her way, and this sets the tone for the way everyone else reacts until it is too late. Those impressions, or rather misconceptions, about the correct manner to approach pregnancy connected to yourself or others were what was evidently obsessing Lowe at the time she was making this, and in truth it was this that proved the strongest element; to get serious, she seemed to be obliquely making a point about depression linked to the condition and how that can be just as life-altering as having the baby. The plot was merely an excuse to get inside the head of a woman who has been driven to distraction by her circumstances, and her revelation at the end was uncomfortable and sobering when you realise no matter what infant voice was commanding her thoughts, it was Ruth all the time.
[Soda Pictures' Blu-ray has a commentary from Lowe and a making of as extras.]