The Fury of Ruth
“Beyond man’s dreams lurk the Furies
-the three sisters of Evil who lie in wait
for those who live dangerously
and without Gods.”
After committing her first murder, Ruth returns to her hotel room and plays a movie on her laptop: Crime Without Passion, the 1934 pre-code film starring Claude Rains. As is often the case, the choice of this film is not at all random. Much less so is the fact that Ruth is watching the opening scene. In this sequence of clear surrealist heritage, the three Erinyes or Furies are represented: mythological figures that inhabited the underworld and whose mission consisted of taking revenge and punishing the mortals for their crimes, while still alive. In visual tradition, these chthonic characters are often depicted as winged women with snakes in their hair, a torch in one hand, and a dagger in the other. Again, none of this is random or accidental ... The protagonist in Prevenge, Ruth -portrayed by the director herself, Alice Lowe- stands as a kind of contemporary Fury whose only mission is to avenge the death of her husband and father of the child she carries inside. Thus, this pregnant widow proceeds to pursue and kill each of those involved in the accident that cost her husband his life. But in this case her mission is not given by a divine mandate. Nor is it driven by a desire of her own. It is a precept from her fetus. It is he who is thirsty for revenge, who speaks to her and orders the killings that she must carry out, sometimes even against her own will.
Ruth is not the pregnant woman we expect -or the one we are expected to expect-. She does not feel full of hope and love for her future child; she feels coerced by him. Her existence is torn between a duel that she cannot let go of and a constant fear of being consumed by the life inside of her. The life that, even before it exists, demands of her more than she can bear. With antecedents such as Baby Blood (Alain Robak, 1990) À l'intérieur (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, 2007) and, of course, Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Lowe takes on the theme of pregnancy, that has already been explored in the horror genre, but gives it a twist by changing the idea of an external threat for that of a danger that comes from within: a violence that emerges from her own condition. And this becomes even more relevant when taking into account that Lowe was, indeed, pregnant at the time of the film's making. Ruth breaks with the stereotype of the future mother, complete and fulfilled by the mere fact that she will soon give birth to a new life, and shows us a pregnant woman that suffers, that fears, that is a woman before she is a mother. Each of her victims reflect an obstacle or prejudice that pregnant women must face on a daily basis in today's society: from a sexuality that is denied to them or, even worse, seen as a mere fetish, to the rejections they must endure in the professional field. Like the Furies, Ruth personifies the idea of an anti-heroine. A powerful figure that has been explored in other revenge films directed by women, such as M.F.A. (Natalia Leite, 2017) and the wdely acclaimed Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020). Stories that are told from a female gaze and portray multidimensional women whose actions cannot be defined by a dichotomy between black and white, and who the notion of morality as it has been constructed in a patriarchal world.
Prevenge is a revenge story that follows the conventions of the slasher and, in the process, pays homage to the genre. It is also a comedy with a deeply dark and satirical humor. But above all, Alice Lowe's debut feature is the manifesto of a pregnant woman on an incipient motherhood, on the fear of losing her own identity and on the need to show another side of pregnancy: that which would be called "the dark side" because it does not conform to the social expectations of what it should be.