Most things are generally quite dark to me, and somehow perversely I often find that this is 'our' lot and my liking. Our being us (well us if you share my nationality). British. The question is whether I am a subject of my own experiences, or whether that is generally how us Brits are when it comes to things, entertainment in particular.
We have been spoilt for choice to be fair, and not many other nationalities have seen their media and artists embrace the darkly black humour like we have. And then like football teams or a love of electronic music, we pass it down to our offspring. My lads know the scripts to Brasseye or Partridge better than I do (quite rightly embarrassing me with my mistakes on social media). And this murky sitcom excellence has clearly leaked filthily into our cinema. More recent additions to the black comedy boxset podium have included Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith's ‘Inside No.9’, which definitely increases the low budget cinematic importance and nods obligingly at it’s peers, which were in essence made for TV movies. No less enjoyable for that. Many strange Sunday evenings found me mesmerised by ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ as a schoolchild.
Ben Wheatley’s ‘Sightseers’ in 2012, took the camping cringe of ‘Nuts In May’ and tipped something from the dark net into their Thermos flasks (something that Julia Davis later did in ‘Camping’ on Sky Atlantic). Behind this creepy countryside caper were the effortless performances of Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who also wrote the movie. With some TV and film work as an actress (including bizarrely ‘Paddington’) and a Radio 4 series, ‘Prevenge' is Alice’s directorial feature debut. She wrote, starred in, and directed it whilst 7-8 months pregnant with her first child, who also appears in the film. In the leading role, Lowe has created Ruth, an anti-heroine, and considering whether pregnancy could be seen as “a superpower. A symbol of the female ability to radically transform.”
Ruth finds herself alone, heavily pregnant and guided by her unborn baby, no bullied actually, into enacting revenge on the tragedy which had befit them both. It’s clear that this is actually some mental illness, brought upon from the circumstances which become apparent very soon and also the stress of her lone parent status. The crux of the comedy comes from the audience believing the embryonic terrorist as an actual character, and the pair embark on a series of shocking and disturbing “adventures”. There are scenes with a Northern working mens club disco DJ which will take some time to bleach from my mind, as much as the scene’s soundtrack by Nik Kershaw, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’. The score is produced by Toydrum, the pairing of Pablo Clements and James Griffith, ex-UNKLE and The Psychonauts, who have worked on a variety of projects including 'Lawless' with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and 'Red Shoes', a short film for Vivienne Westwood.
The black comedy actors guild are in full attendance, once again highlighting the strength of our terrestrial telly and our BBC/ C4 funded cinema. Daniel Renton Skinner (Angelos Epithemiou), Mike Wozniak (‘Man Down’), Kayvan Novak (‘Four Lions’) and the wonderful Jo Hartley (‘This Is England’) all come under scrutiny from Ruth and baby. Some come away with integrity, while others are less fortunate.
As directorial debuts go, Alice Lowe seems to take this in her steps, perhaps because of the assurance gained from her previous award wins, but also as an actor clearly in “the family way”. Little prosthetics needed and the uncomfortable and unsympathetic nature the audience feels is well deflected by the genuine, breath held laughs, legs crossed nature and frantic pace of a worthy date night flick. One for Valentine’s Day.
Prevenge is opening in cinemas this week. Visit the website HERE.