20 July 2020

From Cradle To The Grave

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Alice Lowe's comedically black horror film Prevenge begins with the line that David Attenborough has never had the balls to use; “Nature's a cunt”. Having found herself knocked up and alone, the lead character Ruth appears to have lost her fucking mind and I honestly don't think I can blame her. Her baby still has a little while until its due but already she believes that she can hear it talking to her and it mostly seems to want her to kill people. It's all just 'want, want, want' with these fucking kids, isn't it?! But can you imagine getting pregnant? It's a fucking terrifying idea. One minute you're having a fun time fumble with somebody that you hopefully fancy and the next you're preparing for a tiny human to blast their way out through your fucking genitals. Thank God I was born a male because unless that shit Arnie movie from the early nineties turns out to be a true story then it seems pretty unlikely that I'll find myself up the duff anytime soon. I honestly think that expecting mothers are braver than fucking soldiers because of what they have to go through. At least if you go to war you can convince yourself that you'll return unhurt and having taken a few of the enemies down with you. But pregnant women? There's no escaping the inevitability that a tiny person is about to rip their way out of your vagina and there's nothing you can do in retaliation but love them for it. Nature really is a cunt. 
When Ruth visits the hospital for her various check-ups, this comparison between pregnancy and going to war seems to continue with her kindly midwife acting like a soft-spoken drill sergeant. “Babies in charge now”, “ you will lose control of your body and your mind”, “baby knows what to do”. The midwife is only ever doing her job and she does seem like a very well-intentioned person, but it feels like these visits are only ever one step away from having Ruth repeat, “this is my pregnancy, there are many like it but this one is mine”. Since the release of the film, there have been plenty of comparisons between Ruth and such other cinematic female assassins as Kill Bill's The Bride, but for me, the similarity was between her and Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle. Both characters appear to be struck by a crippling sense of loneliness and both find ways of expressing themselves through the lost art of non-terrorist related killing sprees. If my memory of Taxi Driver is correct, which it definitely is, I'm pretty sure that it's implied that Travis ended up as deranged and alone as he is as a result of having fought in Vietnam. I do sympathise with that fanny haired weirdo of Scorsese's 1976 classic, but I genuinely dread to think what he might have resorted to had he been told that he had to squeeze a baby out of his dick instead.

Like Taxi Driver, Alice Lowe's incredible Prevenge also manages to blend these outbursts of horrific violence with moments of genuine humour and perhaps even a little romance. In the way that Bickle takes his date, Cybill Shepherd, to an ill-judged night at the porno cinema, Ruth also has her disastrous encounters with those of opposite sex. Perhaps most notably is her evening spent with DJ Dan who spends the night dancing with her before declaring, “I love fat birds, they don't care what people do to them”, before taking off his fake afro and drunkenly vomiting into it. Ruth might be off her fucking head in the way that she thinks her unborn baby is talking to her, but I think going back to his flat for a shag is possibly the most unhinged thing that we see her do. When the baby decides that Dan has to die, I kind of felt how I do when I see a baby has one of those big yellow mustard shits in its nappy. I don't like it.. but I can't be mad with it either. Nor was I particularly upset when Ruth decided to exact her vengeance on an apathetic job interviewer that had decided against hiring a pregnant woman for the role. “What do you do for fun?” Ruth asks the interviewer before creating an air of awkwardness that was genuinely more fucking painful to watch than when she cut a mans balls off a few scenes earlier. As the name suggests, Prevenge is as much of a revenge movie as Death Wish or Taken. But whereas Liam Neeson only seems to go after people that have snatched his boring daughter, Ruth predominantly goes after the general bastards that we all have to put up with on a daily basis. She's a psycho, but occasionally baby does know best. 

That is until the film delves into even murkier moral territories in which the ambiguities of her actions begin to mount up and her victims become seemingly less and less deserving. It's obvious from her general mannerisms that Ruth has lost the fucking plot, but nobody seems to be able to see beyond her bump to spot it. Prevenge draws on this idea that once a woman gets pregnant, she is no longer seen as anything more than an anonymous husk whose most interesting trait is in the fact that she's growing a baby. Of course, the most interesting thing that's ever grown inside of me beyond my general contempt for life is a probably a massive fart and so, of course, she has me completely owned in a game of Top Trumps there. Top Trumps was an unintentional fart pun. But.. rarely have I ever lost my identity at the expense of a massive fart no matter how much I might want to when the people in my office are trying to working out who did it. Ruth's crimes occur solely because of how people focus so much on the bump in her belly over the deadness in her eyes. A fact which only exacerbates her sense of isolation and allows her murderous mindset to withdraw further into its own little unpopped bubble of festering rage and insanity. Even from reading the plot description of this film alone in which a 'pregnant woman goes on a murderous kill spree', you know that there'll be someone out there in the world who decides to watch it because its key-words appeal to a few of their pervy fetishes. Probably my friend Greg, now that I think about it. 

All of this is despite the fact that pregnant women are clearly more than the sum of their unborn parts, with Lowe having made this film whilst heavily pregnant herself. If I so much as feel bloated because I've stuffed my face with fucking cheese then I have to sit down for about half a day to recover, but despite growing an actual human inside of her, Lowe decided to go out to write and star in her very first film as a director. In interviews, she's claimed that it was more a case that she happened to be pregnant when the opportunity to direct arose but that sounds like modesty to me. I read Sara Pascoe's book Animal: The Autobiography Of A Female Body this year and that went into pretty intense detail about what a woman can go through during childbirth. Having read that they can tear themselves open until they're leaking faecal matter out of their vaginas I'm not sure that I'll ever get a boner again. But if I was facing the possibility of anything pregnancy-related then no matter how great the opportunity to make a film might be, I think I'd be too busy trying to score as much heroin as I could to be whacked off my tits for when baby does decide to come. As well as Taxi Driver, the film appears to draw on The Brood, Possession, and even has a 70s-style Dario Argento score. With its alienated female protagonist looking out at our shit-hole country, I was also reminded of Jonathan Glazer's 2013 lo-fi, sci-fi film Under The Skin. But just as a real baby might be more than a simple mash of its two parents, Prevenge transcends its influences to become something fresh, bold, funny and terrifying in its own right. The fact that Lowe managed to make a film whilst quite so pregnant is incredible but the fact that she managed to make one as brilliant as Prevenge is an adorable little miracle all in itself. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time. 

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