The metaphor is pretty obvious – pregnancy might be about having a beautiful glow and everyone beaming about the anticipation of new life, but you also have this completely self-absorbed biological parasite inside your body who not only robs you of strength and nutrients without giving anything back, it twists your emotions into knots because of the hormonal assault, making it easy to believe it’s actually speaking to you to articulate incessant demands.
If you’re still not sure, just take note of the the movie Ruth (Alice Lowe) is watching early on, 1934’s Crime Without Passion, where The Furies are the embodiment of unhinged and uncontrolled female rage and will haunt your nightmares for weeks.
We’re not sure exactly why Ruth’s unborn baby is talking to her – the high, lilting child’s voice at odds with the bilious hatred it’s spewing – or why she seems to have a kill list (offering slight connective tissue to Ben Wheatley’ film of the same name and then went on to make Sightseers, also starring Prevenge director/writer/star Lowe).
But when Ruth invites a kindly man to feel the baby moving and he tells her it’s saying ‘hello mum’, and the child’s falsetto snaps ‘no I’m not, I’m saying “fuck off”‘, it’s so hilarious you’re sold.
Ruth’s first point of order when the film opens is to visit a slimy pet store owner, a guy who specialises in exotic and dangerous animals, and without warning sets upon him and slits his throat.
On the train later, Ruth opens a notebook full of mad scrawl and a list of names, the first of which she crosses off, making it apparent she’s a woman on a murderous mission. Even when she has doubts later (like she does with the man who shows her kindness), her baby admonishes her about all their enemies and how they have to die, not letting her stray from the path.
By the midway point we’ve seen a few clues about what Ruth has gone through – there’s no father around, for one thing, and we keep seeing a glimpse of a rock climbing rope, severed roughly and blowing in the breeze, hinting at some tragedy.
It’s better to let the movie reveal Ruth’s motives and intended victims in its own time rather than spoil it here, but it’s only really plot foil to send her on her brutal quest committing one murder after another. Some of them are darkly menacing, some are outright comedy, but Lowe has learned the blackest of black comedy from the likes of Wheatley and their other contemporaries.
Eight months pregnant at the time of filming, she’s in virtually every frame as well as behind the camera, making it quite an undertaking. You can see it as an effective horror comedy if you like because there’s plenty of blood and some genuine laugh out loud moments, but the subtexts about the fear of change, death, pregnancy and birth weigh heavily throughout if you want to dig deeper.
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