Alice Lowe’s character in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers was named Tina; in her own directorial debut, Prevenge, she plays Ruth. Really, though, the different names don’t matter: both characters are extensions of each other in the ways they actualize their misanthropic worldview through bloody murder. But while Wheatley fully embodied his central couples’ hatred of humanity, Lowe keeps a critical distance from her own creation. Though the basic underlying premise is that the baby growing inside of Ruth is controlling its mother, leading her to commit violent acts of murder, there are hints early on that things may not be so simple—that those murderous mumblings she hears from her pregnant belly may well be figments of her own prepartum-depressed imagination.
It’s a warped perspective hardly helped by the fact that she’s still dealing with the death of her husband as the result of a rock-climbing tragedy that may not have been an accident—a belief that fuels the revenge implied by the film’s title. What initially seems like a one-joke movie in its first two-thirds eventually reveals deeper psychological layers in its final act, especially as we begin to get a fuller picture of the tragedy that inspires Ruth’s killing spree. It all leads to a final punchline that actively denies the redemption arc Lowe seemed to be building toward, suggesting a character who’s gained a fuller awareness of her own disturbed self.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 1.