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Thursday, March 30, 2017

On Maternal Horror, Reproductive Justice, and PREVENGE

As reproductive rights continue to be threatened in Trump America, it makes you look at pregnancy and period horror—two of the genre's most prominent tropes—a little differently. PREVENGE, a bold new indie horror that dares to treat pregnancy not as a fragile condition but as a weapon against biases that occur in professional, dating, and social spaces. seems to have been birthed directly out of response to the increasing attention paid toward maternal and pre-maternal women's rights.

It's a funny thing too, the way English writer/director/star Alice Lowe has presented this narrative, introducing Ruth, a seven-months pregnant woman who's led to commit brutal acts of rage—partly out of frustration but mostly because "her baby told her to." So it's not always easy to empathize with her, but as the movie progresses you feel a sense of understanding, which is the hypnotizing thing about this movie. It makes you question which side of sanity you're on when you begin to realize the burden Ruth carries—not of a sadistic child but of her fear of motherhood, fear of her own child, and what her impending motherhood will mean for other areas of her life. And what further complicates her story is that she's a single (widowed) soon-to-be mother, navigating life precisely as one would who's not expecting, which only makes her that much more of an anomaly to those she encounters. Going to a bar and flirting with a friendly stranger is now considered bad taste; going to a job interview now looks like she's only trying to get free insurance and paid leave; and being affable to a non-pregnant woman is automatically an imposition. It's enough to make her lose her mind, and yes, pick up the sharpest knife and shank someone.

Even when Ruth questions the decisions she's made, the murders she commits, she feels forced to succumb to the commands of her dangerous child, who will soon be born and end up controlling her life anyway, so why bother trying to counter now? Though her midwife (Jo Hartley) tries to make her pregnancy as comfortable as possible, Ruth's own lack of authority and unbearable anxiety has conjured something more powerful than her.

PREVENGE, like many horror films, is as divisive as it is thoughtful—no matter where you stand on it. But I assure you, it is one not to be missed. Especially now.

Rating: B+ (**** out of *****)

PREVENGE is now available to stream nationwide on Shudder, and is playing at the IFC Center in New York and The Cinefamily in Los Angeles

Watch the trailer:


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