Director Alice Lowe On Reshaping the Revenge Genre

The director dishes on industry bias, ‘Taxi Driver’ and turning a perceived setback into opportunity.

The buzz surrounding Prevenge, the pregnancy revenge horror film written, directed and starring Alice Lowe, is well-deserved. Prevenge follows Ruth (Lowe), a grieving woman who embarks on a killing spree and believes that her unborn child is guiding her in this quest for revenge after the loss of her partner. Chock-full of biting British humor, this mother-to-be’s rampage is both relatable as well as a refreshing new twist on the sub-genre that has often been plagued by rape plot lines. But most of all, it’s wickedly funny, which comes as no surprise considering Lowe’s remarkable career in comedy across the pond.

Although Prevenge is her directorial debut, Lowe has worked alongside some of the biggest names in British comedy for the better part of fifteen years, including Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive, Horrible Histories, and Gareth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Lowe was part of Steve Coogan’s 2009 ‘Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters’ tour and she has appeared in a number of British comedies including The IT Crowd, Little Britain, and The Mighty Boosh. Lowe also starred in and co-wrote the 2012 Ben Wheatley film Sightseer and she has collaborated with Edgar Wright on numerous occasions, including appearances in Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.

But despite her impressive resume, Lowe was still was met with doubt about her directorial debut. “I’ve been making a lot of films for a lot of years, not as a director per se but I’m a writer, I’ve produced, I’ve been on set for more than fifteen years. I kind of feel like I’m over qualified to do this yet still you have this thing of like ‘Oh, are you gonna be able to do this as an actress? Are you gonna be able to direct?’ And I’m like but hang on you’re giving this opportunity to a twenty-six year old guy who’s never stepped foot onto a set and that’s not perceived as a risk but yet I am perceived as a risk, even with all the experience that I have? And I find that really crazy and weird.”

It feels hard to imagine Prevenge in anyone else’s hands, in part because it was birthed out of Lowe’s real-life pregnancy. “It was really a strange sort of situation where I wanted to make a film but I was pregnant and I was going to take time off because I thought thats what you do when you’re pregnant.” This initially led Lowe to turn down the chance to direct, something she had been wanting to do for a long time. But then Lowe realized she could turn what the industry often perceives as a setback into an opportunity. “I think its interesting that I wanted to make a film and the way I made a film was twisting something that would’ve generally been perceived as something that’s hobbling you in your career. I had to twist that to an advantage…and I was aware that there is a certain sense of like well you don’t think that I can direct a film but how about if I do it pregnant? You wont be able to say I can’t do it now.”

And so, Lowe returned with a new pitch ‐ one that revolved specifically around her situation. “I just thought ‘Well, what if I made a story for myself as a pregnant character?’ And I sort of came up with the story there and then and I pitched it to this company and said ‘It’s a pregnancy revenge movie and we’ll call it Prevenge but thats probably a terrible title, we’ll call it something else.’ And they loved the idea. I had no intention of making my directorial debut while pregnant, that wasn’t part of the plan, that was just something that happened and I’m really glad that I did it now.”

With Prevenge, Lowe is putting her own feminist stamp on a genre that has seen a resurgence lately with the success of films John Wick. But unlike many of these films, where the audience is immediately shown the reason for the main character’s motivation, Prevenge slowly gives you insight into Ruth’s behavior over the course of the film. Right from the start, you’re forced to empathize with her based solely on her loneliness and vulnerability. For Lowe, this was intentional.

“I actually wanted to challenge the audience a bit to go well, what if you don’t know why she’s doing it, can you still empathize with her? Even if you don’t like her, can you still watch her? Because I always think we have this underestimation of female characters where we think if they’re not likable then people won’t like the film or they won’t watch it and I always felt like why would you care about that? No one cares if Travis Bickle is likable, you just watch the film and you understand what Taxi Driver is about and what it means. People even romanticize his character because they’re like ‘oh, it’s a symbol of loneliness.’ It doesn’t mean we have to go out and shoot pimps, we can still identify with him. So I just wanted this character to have this kind of maverick loner quality that wasn’t over-explained, that we didn’t have to know exactly why we should feel sorry for her in order to give her permission to be behaving like this. I just wanted to people to enjoy or be interested in what she was doing.”

In addition to Taxi Driver, Lowe was influenced by a wide array of horror classics when making Prevenge, including Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining and Don’t Look Now but also films “about liminal periods, like Carrie, a girl becoming a woman, [and] things like Dead Man’s Shoes or Red Road, which are British revenge movies that are very mysterious and fascinating.” While the film’s soundtrack is a nod to Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange and John Carpenter.

As for life beyond Prevenge, Lowe told me she is already hard at work on her next film. “It’s still a bit under wraps because I’m still writing but it’s gonna be even more out there I think, even stranger if that’s possible. Still dark but kind of more of a conceptual piece which is quite exciting as well. And funny! Still funny.” If Prevenge is any indication, we’re in for something truly special.

Prevenge premieres exclusively on Shudder beginning March 24.