British actress and comedian Alice Lowe made her directorial debut in 2016 with her comedy/slasher film, Prevent. Prevent is a unique feat in the world of cinema, especially in the horror genre, which deserves more attention and praise from horror fans and moviegoers around the world. The way the story’s premise unfolds lends itself to a unique subversion of the horror genre. It really is multiple genres at once: horror, comedy, and drama are all tied together with elements of fantasy and mystery.
The film was written by Lowe in two weeks, shot in 11 days, and had a budget of just £80,000, or about $96,000 in America. Considering most A24 horrors have a budget of around $10 million, movies with such a low budget usually end up having more of a “camp” feel. Remarkably, despite the budget, Prevent manages to continue an intense tone throughout the film, which is highlighted by high-quality shots, realistic horror effects, and enjoyable cinematography. Prevent follows the life of Ruth, a woman recently widowed while pregnant. The most impressive and admirable part of the film…Ruth is played by Lowe who was 7-8 months pregnant in real life at the time of filming. Lowe not only starred in the film, but gave an outstanding performance that had viewers crying with laughter and crying in pain, back to back.
Lowe brings the horror of the film to life by taking some of the most well-known and mundane aspects of pregnancy and showing how, for some, they could be the most disappointing part of pregnancy. The main example motivating the film is that Ruth clings strongly to the idea that mothers are supposed to talk to their children while they carry them. Throughout the film, leading up to the birth of her baby, Ruth has a deep and intemperate inner dialogue with her baby that the audience can hear via comedic British voiceover. This baby doesn’t just respond to Ruth, though. Ruth’s baby dominates her conscience, causing her to plan and execute a vindictive agenda in hopes of avenging the father. It involves a murderous rampage by all those involved in her husband’s death, which occurred in a rock climbing accident.
While the actions of the film shouldn’t inspire audiences to follow in Ruth’s footsteps, Lowe gives us a portrayal of a pregnant woman who’s never been seen before. Stereotypically, pregnant women are portrayed as weak, inferior, incapable, and even stupid. Especially being as far into the pregnancy as Lowe was in the movie. Lowe plays a very empowered pregnant woman; not afraid to actively face danger. Despite the frequent grimaces of all the blood and guts of the movie, Ruth makes for a badass and quirky killer character.
Pregnancy and motherhood are not uncommon themes in horror films. However, they are often used similarly and repeatedly. Many outcomes usually include the birth of a demonic baby. For example, in Rosemary’s baby, the baby itself ended up being the expected horror, coming out as a demon baby. This result where the child was the horror all along, is the one we often see in horror movies. Without forgetting that these stories are mainly described through the male gaze. Lowe creating this film and starring in it, as an actual pregnant actress, offers a serious, unfeigned perspective that male-directed works lack. The male gaze that typically frames these stories often dilutes and distorts the woman and her pregnancy experience, so it can be consumed as a more whimsical experience for audiences — especially in the horror genre. Certain moments in the film are certainly whimsical, but they are reflections of the outside world that show just how bizarre society’s treatment of pregnant women and their expectations of them can be. This is the other central way in which the horrors of this film, and what Ruth experiences, are brought to light. The reality is that when a woman becomes pregnant, several other people are involved in the pregnancy process. All of these people also end up giving their opinion on how the pregnancy should go. Whether it’s medical information required from a doctor or midwife, or voluntary from virtually anyone else.
Through the character of Ruth, one can see how all outside input can be frightening, overwhelming, and more often than not demeaning. A different societal view of Ruth is emphasized through each of the victims she pursues. One of the best examples is the murder of CEO Ruth. The CEO is a woman herself, but vilifies Ruth for getting pregnant and refuses to hire her because of her pregnancy. A misogynistic DJ resents her anger because he’s slimy and wants to get into her pants so badly that he doesn’t even notice she’s pregnant until he tries to coerce her into having sex. A climbing instructor refuses to work with Ruth because her pregnancy forces her to injure herself while climbing. One of his victims shows genuine concern for her, but because everyone up to this point has made her feel useless and burdensome, her baby convinces her that the man’s kindness is fake. As for the midwife, she feels like she is almost “explaining” (if you will) the pregnancy experience. The midwife tells her that her baby will help her find clarity in life and help her make better decisions. Ruth has a “You don’t know half of it” response, stating that she Is feel like the baby is make decisions for her. No midwife could ever expect the truth behind this statement to involve Ruth’s baby ordering her to make various fatal decisions. The audience can then see how this treatment of others coincides with the deep anger that Ruth already feels since the death of her husband.
Prevent further enhances her uniqueness when Ruth gives birth to a perfectly normal, healthy, non-demonic human baby, played by her real-life daughter she was pregnant with while filming the movie! Ruth is finally able to come to terms with all the psychological horrors she’s been through so far. Ruth recognizes that the real causes of her actions stem from the grief and grief she felt after losing her husband and having to face the reality that she had to raise her child alone.
From its production to its history, Prevent is a special and unique film that stands out from other films that use the same themes. It’s an inspiring victory for female-directed horror movies! Horror is not being pregnant, as seen with so many depictions of pregnancy in horror. The horror faces the intense societal pressures that come with pregnancy (as well as a few graphic murders). With the significant contribution that Lowe has made with Preventhopefully one of these days she gets a bigger budget, so we can see what else she can create and accomplish!