Anybody with any sense at all is afraid of pregnant women.
I myself all but pushed a man down a flight of stairs while I was pregnant, and still don’t see the problem with it.
With unassuming mastery, Alice Lowe pushes that concept to its breaking point with her wickedly funny directorial debut, Prevenge.
Lowe plays Ruth. Grieving, single and pregnant, Ruth believes her unborn daughter rather insists that she kill a bunch of people.
With her characteristically dry, oh-so-British humor, Lowe exposes awkward moments of human interaction and then forces you to stare at them until they become gigglingly unbearable.
Why such bloodlust from Ruth’s baby? Lowe, who also wrote the script, divulges just as much as you need to know when the opportunity arises. At first, there’s just the macabre fun of watching the seemingly ordinary mum pick off an unsuspecting exotic pet salesman.
And then on to the saddest, most pathetic 70s-loving disco club DJ of all time.
With each new victim we learn a bit more backstory and a little more about Ruth, who’s on a path that’s funny, bloody and just touching enough to leave a mark.
Lowe’s blackly comic timing as an actor is well proven, particularly in Ben Wheatley’s 2012 gem Sightseers, which she also co-penned. Wheatley’s picture predicted Lowe’s ability to zero in on anxieties around social awkwardness and exploit them for all their squirm-worthy horror and comedic worth, as well.
She ably showcases these skills and more in Prevenge, this time mining larger themes of grief and pre-partum depression with a weary authenticity. (Lowe, like her character Ruth, was 7 months pregnant during filming.)
Rarely gory (DJ Dan does get it pretty good, though), the film barely registers as horror, but as a comedy it treads some dark territory. It does so with authority, good will, subversive insight and a laugh.
It’s a thin plot requiring the ability to suspend disbelief, but it also announces a very fresh voice in horror.
Since Bonnie and Clyde and probably before, cinematic lovers on a bloody rampage have been entertaining and freaking out audiences the world over. Their escapades can be as grimly beautiful as Terrence Malick’s incandescent Badlands, or as bloody as – well, as the films we celebrate today. Dangerous lovers can really build a body count, as you’ll see here. Ain’t love grand?
5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Here’s a bizarre idea for a musical: The barber upstairs kills his clients and the baker downstairs uses the bodies in her meat pies. Odd for a Broadway musical, yes, but for a Tim Burton film? That sounds a little more natural.
As in most of Burton’s best efforts, Sweeney Todd stars Johnny Depp in the title role. Depp is unmistakably fantastic – consumed, morose, twisted with vengeance – and he’s in fine voice, to boot.
Helena Bonham Carter – ever the perfect Goth girl – gives Mrs. Lovett a wicked survivor streak balanced by a tender, pining affection. The romance dream sequence is a riot, and so perfectly Burton-esque. The two actors offset each other brilliantly, while their onscreen duo deserves credit for efficiency, if nothing else.
With Burton’s help, Depp found another dark, bizarre anti-hero to showcase his considerable talent. With Depp’s help, Burton gorgeously, grotesquely realized another macabre fantasy.
4. Hellraiser (1987)
Hedonist Frank Cotton solves an ancient puzzle box, which summons the fearsome Cenobites, who literally tear Frank apart and leave his remains rotting in the floorboards of an old house. Years later, Frank’s brother Larry moves into that house with his teenage daughter Kirsty and his new wife Julia (Clare Higgins) – who, oh yeah, also happens to be Frank’s ex-lover.
A gash on Larry’s leg spills blood on the floor, which awakens the remains of Frank, who then requires more blood to complete his escape from the underworld. Julia, both repulsed and aroused by her old flame’s half-alive form, agrees to make sure more blood is soon spilled.
Though the Cenobites are the real, lasting terror in this film – and how cool were they! – the sexual chemistry between Julia and that bloody lump of Frank is never less than unsettling. Higgins makes the perfect evil stepmother while redefining the term blood lust.
3. Sightseers (2012)
From the guttural drone of the opening segment, this film announces itself as a dryly, darkly hilarious adventure. Frumpy Tina (Alice Lowe, perfection) needs a break from the smothering mum who blames her for their dog’s death. Against Mum’s wishes, Tina will take a road trip with her new beau, the equally frumpy Chris (Steve Oram, amazing).
The film is a wickedly fresh British take on a familiar theme. Oram and Lowe wrote the script, alongside director Ben Wheatley’s go-to scribe (and wife) Amy Jump. The result is so absurd and hilarious – few films have had so much fun with moral ambiguity.
Wheatley blends the dark comedy of his first film, Down Terrace, with the sense of the unexpected that elevated Kill List to create enormously entertaining homicidal madness. It helps that his cast could not be better, draining all the glamour of the road trip assassin couple trope without relying on that as a gimmick. There’s a deeply British weirdness to the proceedings, which are handled with bone-dry aplomb by all involved.
2. The Hunger (1983)
Tony Scott’s seductive vampire love story has a little bit of everything: slaughter, girl-on-girl action, ’80s synth/goth tunage, David Bowie. What more can you ask?
Actually the film’s kind of a sultry, dreamily erotic mess. Catharine Deneuve is the old world vampire Miriam, David Bowie is her lover. The two spend years – perhaps centuries – together seducing victims. But he suddenly begins aging, and she needs to find a replacement. Enter Susan Sarandon as a medical specialist in unusual blood diseases and a fine actress who’s not above smooching other girls.
Bowie and Deneuve are both so effortlessly cool and sexy that you can almost forgive them their nighttime savagery. You find out just how dangerous he is once he begins the rapid-aging process, but once you get a peek into Miriam’s attic you find that she’s been far more dangerous – to her lovers and everyone else – for a very long time.
1. Alleluia (2014)
In 2004, Belgian writer/director Fabrice Du Welz released the exquisite Calvaire, marking himself a unique artist worth watching. Ten years later he revisits the themes of that film – blind passion, bloody obsession, maddening loneliness – with his newest effort, Alleluia. Once again he enlists the help of an actor who clearly understands his vision.
Laurent Lucas plays Michel, a playboy conman who preys upon lonely women, seducing them and taking whatever cash he can get his hands on. That all changes once he makes a mark of Gloria (Lola Duenas).
Du Welz’s close camera and off angles exaggerate Lucas’s teeth, nose and height in ways that flirt with the grotesque. Likewise, the film dwells on Duenas’s bags and creases, heightening the sense of unseemliness surrounding the pair’s passion.
Duenas offers a performance of mad genius, always barely able to control the tantrum, elation, or desire in any situation. Her bursting passions often lead to carnage, but there’s a madcap love story beneath that blood spray that compels not just attention but, in a macabre way, affection. Alleluia is a film busting with desperation, jealousy, and the darkest kind of love.