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Chambers, A., 2020.

'"Baby Knows Best": A (re)birth of pregnancy horror and satirising 'trust in nature' Narratives in Alice Lowe's Prevenge

Output Type:Chapter in a book
Publication:Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre
Publisher:Columbia University Press

Prevenge uses and disrupts the horror tropes surrounding pregnancy where women are powerless involuntary hosts. Tellingly the main character, Ruth (Alice Lowe), refers to her pregnancy as 'a hostile takeover' framing it as merger rather than a parasitic invasion. Additionally, and unusually, the Prevenge pregnancy is not the result of violence or supernatural intervention but natural conception and possible medical psychosis. Devastated by the death of her partner, Ruth/Ruthless goes on a murderous revenge rampage apparently compelled by her unborn child - a sort of pre-emptive revenge often fuelled by her victims attitudes towards women, pregnancy, and children.

Writer/director/actor Alice Lowe was heavily pregnant during Prevenge's production and has talked about her distain for the 'trust in nature' narratives that surround pregnancy. In Prevenge, a sentimental gynaecologist (Jo Hartley) acts as a representative for society's adulation of pregnancy. The medic focusses on the fetus and patronises her patient by jokingly telling her she's lost control of her mind and body but tells her not to worry because it is "all natural". By placing an apparently natural event within a horror setting Lowe is able to discuss and disrupt traditional narratives surrounding the joy of pregnancy by making a domestic experience (as both a private and in some senses a public experience) obscene.

This chapter will analyse the shift in pregnancy themed horror from being about women as invaded involuntary hosts to exploring the agency and experience of the pregnant woman. This specifically female experience is mediated by a woman director/writer/actor, who herself was experiencing pregnancy, and thus the lived experiences and challenges of pregnancy are given a new power within the narrative. This paper will also explore the medical framing of Prevenge with the role of antenatal psychosis in the experiences of the pregnant woman, and existing and persisting medical narratives where the agency of the mother is lost to the baby who "knows best".