'Prevenge' courtesy of Venice International Film Critics' Week
'Prevenge' courtesy of Venice International Film Critics' Week

"For her writing-directing debut, showing here in Venice in the Critics’ Week sidebar, Alice Lowe returns to the grisly territory of Sightseers, the black comedy she made with Steve Oram for director Ben Wheatley," begins the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "Only this is a more macabre and explicitly violent serial-killer movie, with a fainter tint of queasy humor. It provides a nightmarish satirical twist on post- and antenatal depression: its tone is bizarre, its pace a remorseless, heavy tread."

Lowe wrote Prevenge "in a matter of weeks and shot it, with herself in the lead role, very soon after," notes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist. "And she’s terrific in the film, mordant and malevolent, deadpanning her way through its series of murders with the same damp suburban Britishness she brought to her role of the caravanning killer in Sightseers. But she did all that while seven months pregnant in real life (her 'baby bump,' for want of a less nauseating term, is not a prosthesis), which not only makes her some sort of folk hero, it delivers a jolt of authenticity to her performance—it may be a farfetched serial-killer black comedy, but the weariness and wariness of pregnancy is real."

And, adds Variety's Guy Lodge, this "weary mother-to-be is raggedly beholden to her vengeful tyrant of an unborn daughter, who 'speaks' to her in insidiously high-pitched tones, goading her into a series of targeted murders—the motive for which Lowe’s casually structured script invites audiences to assemble piecemeal, as we simultaneously discover the circumstances behind the baby’s father’s absence. This much is clear: Ruth is carrying a whole lot of grief along with her bundle of joy."

"The extreme irreverence of not just the sainted Madonna figure but also the child she's carrying being fueled by hate is especially delectable coming from the mind of a pregnant writer," writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. "A midwife who's the very essence of patronizing concern (Jo Hartley) explains, 'You have absolutely no control over your mind or your body anymore. But baby knows what to do. Baby will tell you.' She doesn't know the half of it."

'Prevenge' courtesy of Venice International Film Critics' Week
'Prevenge' courtesy of Venice International Film Critics' Week

"The Cardiff locations set Ruth’s driven quest in a dreary netherworld of soulless business parks, dingy diners and deserted underpasses, shot in sickly night light or by the grey, watery light of day," writes Screen's Lee Marshall. "Another pleasure is the moody, quirky electronic score by Brighton-based duo Toydrum… With its almost throwaway ending, Prevenge is best enjoyed for the journey rather than the destination."

Still, for Thomas Humphrey at Screen Anarchy, Prevenge "definitely feels like a film that seems destined to become a cult classic."

Update: "Lowe, with her blue-grey, wild-eyed gaze, manages to be highly amusing and disturbing at the same time," writes Camillo De Marco at Cineuropa. "British dark humor flows through this film like blood, as if the entire Monty Python gang were all being kept in just one head, and what’s more, the head of a woman—a total one-woman band."

Update, 9/14: "What revenge stories, whether they be films, books or plays, have impressed and influenced you?" asks Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay. Alice Lowe:

Really? Wow! Um… wow. Well… I love Ms. 45. Kill Bill. Lady Vengeance. Oldboy, Dead Man’s Shoes—all fantastic. But I do like a slow burn revenge too. Something like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? you could argue was a revenge movie. I guess a grudge is like the ghost of emotion, still haunting the living world. And the penalty can be paid physically or emotionally. I was fascinated by the idea that someone becomes so seized by that one emotion, that they cease to exist. It’s as if they die, and become this force, with one purpose. They become weaponized! I wanted Ruth’s baby to seem like this elemental primal force, the embodiment of rage. I studied Classics, and drew upon the goddesses of vengeance, the Furies. We use excerpts of their filmic depiction in Crime and Punishment in our film. I guess some human emotions stand the test of time; revenge is an idea that’s been translated down through the centuries. In the classical world there’s no getting away from revenge. It’s a cycle and always has a knock-on effect. Agamemnon kills his daughter, so his wife kills him, then her son kills her, etc, etc. So I guess what I’m saying is… they embraced the notion of “sequel.”

Update, 9/15: For the TIFF Review, Soraya Roberts talks with Lowe "about juggling art and motherhood, Taxi Driver and the rise of female horror film."

Updates, 9/24: "A feminist, score-settling slasher with a satirical edge, then?" asks Michael Leader, writing for the BFI. "Certainly. But while Prevenge delivers cult thrills and devilish humor, Lowe is adept at probing the existential darkness of her protagonist—a woman discombobulated by her condition, as she mourns for a life lost while giving herself over to the life to come. However, all the while, there is a glint in her eye—a thrill, no doubt shared by Lowe, of subverting expectations, of stepping out from behind the sanctified image of the glowing mum-to-be, and embracing a transgressive madness."

"What initially seems like a one-joke movie in its first two-thirds eventually reveals deeper psychological layers in its final act," finds Kenji Fujishima at In Review Online.

Update, 10/25: AFI Fest's posted its interview with Lowe.

Update, 11/1: Soraya Roberts talks with Lowe for the TIFF Review.

The 2016 fall film festival indexes: Venice, Telluride and Toronto.