REVIEWS IN 300 WORDS
Prevenge(4 / 5)
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned — though the wrath of the pregnant Ruth (writer-director Alice Lowe) still isn’t half as great as that of her unborn brood.
Ruth has suffered a recent tragedy, one that has the baby inside her baying, albeit sweetly, for the blood of those she holds responsible. Still, as the over-cheery midwife (Jo Hartley) warns her, Ruth has to be ready to give some measure of control over to the little one.
In this case, that measure of control involves the malicious murder of an array of tightly sketched comedic archetypes. Pick of the appalling pack — which includes two Game of Thrones alums — is the vile DJ Dan (Tom Davis), a drunken, afro-wigged lech (“I fucking love fat chicks”) and masterclass in cringe comedy, whom the hormonal, homicidal Ruth understandably takes some pleasure in dispatching.
Raven-haired and glaring, and genuinely seven months pregnant, Lowe switches from moody killer to anxious mum-to-be in an instant. The obvious point of comparison is, of course, Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers — which Lowe cowrote and in which she costarred — but there’s more to this, though, than that film’s National Trust-based misanthropy.
With a sprog that makes Damien look like an amateur before its even out of the womb, and a case of prenatal tension that makes Rosemary look like a wimp, Prevenge is a genuinely edgy British black comedy that amounts to more than the sum of its genetic donors.
Lowe’s also spoken of her desire to birth her own films. She’s certainly done that here with Prevenge, and then some.
Brimstone(3.5 / 5)
If Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden was somewhat novelistic in its ambitions, and inspiration, then Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone is a frontier-set Gothic horror of the sort you could use for a doorstop — albeit one without an actual literary source.
Liz (Dakota Fanning) is a midwife, tending to suffering women in a landscape that’s equal parts New World and Old Testament. After a gruesome birth in which she is forced to make an impossible choice, a new reverend appears suddenly in the town; striding into the old white-plank church like the spirit of vengeance.
Stern and scarred, dark of eye and sharp of tongue, The Reverend (Guy Pearce) is certainly a menacing figure — he makes Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter look like Desmond Tutu — but Liz’s fear of him goes beyond that; to the concern of her salt-of-the-earth husband El (William Houston) and their two kids.
Over the course of two and a half hours and four chapters, each named for a book of the Bible, Brimstone digs into the diabolical truth of their relationship; a storied history that takes in degradation both religious and sexual, often both. Think Wuthering Heights if Cathy was a stoic yet trembling mute, sometimes armed with a shotgun, and Heathcliffe was a seemingly unstoppable Dutch-accented monster bent on punishing her.
Kit Harrington appears as a mysterious desperado, and would-be guardian angel, who’s handy with a noose; Carice Van Houten appears, pale and contrite, as a troubled adherent trying to navigate between faith and family. With its stark visuals and somber score, the film is obsessed with the inescapable suffering of women.
Brimstone is brutal, unremitting, and certainly ambitious — it took Koolhaven five years to get it made — but also, at times, a bit of a slog.