From the Devil's Advocates series. Written by Andrew Graves.

RRP: £9.99 102pp

Out now from Auteur/Liverpool University Press.


A heavily pregnant Alice Lowe had an 11-day shooting schedule to capture on film her own self-described “hormonal paranoia” in the form of 2016’s delightful PREVENGE. This unique, female-driven riff on TAXI DRIVER was written, developed and shot within a four-month time frame – ambitiously constructed around the deadline of its horror-loving creator’s own imminent birth. It didn’t tick the easy marketing boxes of a post-SHAUN OF THE DEAD British horror comedy but here Andrew Graves offers a suitably appreciative, perceptive celebration of a movie that never wanted to be pigeonholed for the sake of its commercial prospects.


A grisly black comedy straddling cult genre cinema, arthouse and alternative comic books, it has prompted Graves to revel in a uniquely Brexit-era British study of inequality, sexism and the role of (and attitudes toward) Mums; and find parallels to the later, Scorcese-inflected JOKER in the physical and mental transformation of Lowe’s protagonist Ruth, complete with face paint. The study locates surprising, well argued precedents including Maila Nurmi’s horror hostess Vampira, and her own rise to fame against the backdrop of 1950s America and its expectations for a woman’s “place”.


In discussing the look and feel of PREVENGE, Grave refers inevitably to key English horrors from the late 1960s and early 1970s, while considering the cycle of motherhood horrors beyond obvious benchmarks like ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE EXORCIST. Contrasting viewpoints are found in the often-male gaze found in such films, and the centralising of middle-aged male responses in others like VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. This concise, engaging DEVIL’S ADVOCATES monograph is punctuated by quotes from Graves’ interviews with Lowe: she reflects on her own motherhood and the need for an uncommon approach to what he calls “maternity-frocked frailty” – subverting the audience expectations of mercy, softness and kindness when it comes to mums, whether expectant like Ruth or well-established.


In both his interactions with Lowe and his own analysis, Graves deftly unravels an empathetic, uniquely personal genre film - one that “feels happier in the morgue than the maternity ward” – and was very much in line with its writer-director-star’s comedic background. Key precedents include Lowe’s exploration of sexism and “the token girl” in her two roles for the sublime stage / TV show GARTH MARENGHI’S DARK PLACE and her Radio 4 showcase ALICE’S WUNDERLAND (wonderfully described as “the Poundland of magical realms”). Graves considers SIGHTSEERS, in which she co-created and played “a cagoule-wearing Rose West with a passion for murder, her man and Dolmio sauce”, a major forerunner to PREVENGE in its meld of the horrific and the humdrum, alongside a range of influences from kitchen sink dramas to those scarring Public Information films that freaked us all out in the 1970s and 80s.


The author’s astute analysis of what he equates to “the acid tab dropped in the builder’s tea” is deliciously in line with Lowe’s own observations of her favourite British horror films (“A bit scrappy, like Kathy Burke with a fag, sitting on a wall”). His positioning of the movie in the context of undervalued, disturbing 1970s fare like THE BABY is particularly fun – as is the comparison to Amicus Films’ blend of the supernatural and the banal in their anthology horrors, notably “An Act of Kindness”, the unforgettable FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE episode. Weakened only by a brace of typos (“Captain Cronos”, “Heck Harvey”, etc.), it’s a witty, insightful read that will inspire you to revisit Lowe’s glorious back catalogue…and indulge in those older outlandish / ordinary Brit horrors that, to quote Graves, find all sorts of perversions viewed “through the unwashed windows of an abandoned terrace house”.


Steven West.







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This web site is owned and published by London FrightFest Limited.

FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018