Alice Lowe's black-comedy-horror Prevenge isn't your typical multiplex fare. The tale tells of an eight-months-pregnant woman, Ruth, who is driven to seek murderous revenge on those she blames for the death of her ex in a climbing accident by the disembodied voice of her demonic unborn baby. Having previously co-written and starred in Ben Wheatley's hilarious Caravan Club serial killer yarn Sightseers, Lowe has form for this sort of thing – she is a regular fixture in Wheatley's films, as well as those of Edgar Wright.
The film has been a smash on the festival circuit around the world, and the micro-budget movie has now been picked up for worldwide distribution amid rave reviews. It has all come as a bit of a surprise, Lowe admits.
"I don't think anyone expected much," she says. "It was such a low budget and there was a sense of: 'Well, you're pregnant, it doesn't really matter if it's rubbish.' So for so many people to pick up on it and get worldwide distribution is amazing."
Lowe was herself eight-months pregnant when she shot the film, and at six months when she wrote it.
Someone came to me and said: 'Do you want to make a low-budget feature? We have some private financing available'," Lowe explains. "It was only a tiny budget, but they'd seen my work, they loved Sightseers, and they really wanted to work with me, and they just said I could do whatever I want. I thought: 'Oh, this a nice situation to be in. Why hasn't this ever happened to me before?'"
Her excitement was tempered, however, by reality.
“Then I thought: ‘Great, this has finally happened to me and I’m pregnant.’ So I figured I’d turn it to my advantage, seize the bull by the horns and kind of refute those preconceptions of what women should be doing, killing two birds with one stone.”
Unsurprisingly, Lowe says that much of her script was inspired by her own experiences while pregnant.
“By the time I was six-months pregnant, I was pretty worried about work, because being pregnant affects what people will cast you as," she recalls. "I didn’t feel in control of how I was going to be perceived in terms of what work I could get. Then there were all the other fears that something might happen to the baby, that you might get depressed afterwards, that you might not be able to cope, so I had a lot to write about in the middle of all this.”
Once Lowe had completed the film – she edited the movie with new arrival Della by her side – she says she still remained blissfully unaware that she might have an unexpected worldwide hit on her hands.
"You get a little hint when you get into a really big festival like Venice and are asked to open Critics' Week," she says. "We were like: 'Oh, this is pretty big news.' But it just hasn't stopped since. We've been asked to so many festivals, I've had to start saying no. It's always a gamble with comedy, especially very British comedy like this, whether people are going to get it in other places, and the subject matter could be seen as a bit profane in some countries. I did expect more of a backlash to be honest, but everyone that's seen it seems to have really enjoyed it."
Lowe has an idea of what has made the film such a success – its sheer weirdness. This isn’t some pregnant slasher monster, but a socially awkward, kooky, extremely funny woman, possessed by a despotic unborn child.
“You have to shatter people’s preconceptions to get them to really empathise with your character,” she explains. “If it’s not a generic horror character, or a generic hero or a generic victim. They go: ‘Oh, it’s a real person.’ And they start to think that they know you and then they think that they are you. Everybody secretly thinks that they’re crazy and the rest of the world is normal, that they’re weird and they’re hiding it really well from the rest of the world.
"It's a very personal film, but sometimes the more personal a film is, the more it exposes general neurosis, just some zeitgeist feeling in the air. I just try and write about what I'm interested in at the time."
Lowe has had more than a year now to get acquainted with the real-life inspiration behind the evil voice in Ruth's stomach. So has the experience of motherhood been as horrifying as she might have feared?
“Not really at all,” she laughs. “We’re quite lucky because she’s a really easy baby. We’ve taken her all round the world to lots of different festivals and she’s totally comfortable with meeting new people and going new places. It’s a shame in a way. I’ve made this movie about a really evil baby, and she’s not evil at all really. She’s actually quite nice. She’s just hugging her teddy and wandering round the living room. I suppose it’s sort of a let-down.”
Prevenge is in cinemas across the UAE this weekend