Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Movie Review #47: Grace


There are very few horror films that accurately capture the love between a mother and her newborn child, let alone focus on that unconditional love as the main source of tension and terror. The role of women in our beloved genre is typically reserved for drawn out chase scenes between her & a killer, or making her the first of the body count after an onslaught of gratuitous nudity and teenage sex. As humans, we are predisposed to sympathize with a woman as the lead role in a film, and making the newborn baby the villain is something no director in Hollywood seems to want to touch. Films like Rosemary's Baby (1968), It's Alive (1974), and to some extent, Basket Case (1982) have toyed with the notion of the infant as the source of evil, but no such film has accomplished the sheer horror evoked by Paul Solet's debut film, Grace.

I sat down to watch the film with extremely high expectations, having heard the buzz from Sundance about two grown men fainting during the screening and being a huge fan of Adam Green (Hatchet, 2006), who produced the film under the umbrella of ArieScope pictures. I had also heard the stories about Paul Solet, who hit the streets and horror conventions to promote his film carrying a dead bloody baby on his chest. I have a great deal of respect for such a grassroots marketing strategy, coming from a music scene on Long Island where we promoted hardcore shows to round up a gang of kids into a VFW Hall somewhere out East where they could bash each other to shreds while listening to brutal anti-establishment music, and knowing this was Solet's approach just made me want to see the film even more. Not to mention the promo poster (above) which left a lot to our sick & twisted imaginations. I knew this would be a film unlike anything I have seen, but to say I was blown away would be an understatement . . .

Our main character, Madeline, played by Jordan Ladd, finally becomes pregnant after several unsuccessful attempts and although the baby dies toward the end of the 9 month period, she decides to carry the baby to term. This is actually a real scientific possibility and the premise on which Solet wrote the script. Her husband dies in a car crash and after a horrible birth scene that takes place in the home of a mid-wife, Madeline brings her dead child Grace into the world, giving her life by feeding her blood. The baby's appetite becomes insatiable and Madeline soon finds herself draining blood from animal meat for nutrition, eventually crossing the ultimate line and killing a doctor who pays her a house call, so she can fill Grace's bottle with fresh blood.

Early in the film, Madeline discovers the need to drain herself to satisfy Grace, and the feedings become increasingly violent. She becomes a shut-in, alienating herself from friends and family and fully dedicating herself to the care of the child. The presence of flies in Grace's bedroom hint at the "undead" nature of the baby and raise suspicion throughout the entire film. Madeline's over-bearing mother-in-law Vivian (played by Gabrielle Rose), whose mission is to repossess Grace for herself, creates further stress on the audience while offering a glimpse into the varying degrees of a mother's love for child, a theme that is constantly emphasized in Solet's script. The raw emotion on screen is very real, and the cast of characters are spot-on.

Most of the film takes place inside Madeline's home, with a similar feeling to one of my personal favorites, the French film Inside (2006), in which a woman on the brink of motherhood is tormented in her home by a strange woman who wants her unborn baby. In Grace, Vivian is the threat, and Madline must do whatever it takes to protect her child. Solet offers more than just insight into a mother's undying love for her baby, something no man (or woman without children) can understand -- he asks the question "what happens when a woman goes past that point of love and into madness?" The result is a film so far from reality but yet somehow still very real. Quite a feat indeed . . .

There is no need for a masked killer here. The real terror lies in the viewer's uncertainty about Grace, the obsession of Madeline to keep her seeimgly innocent child alive, the persistence of Vivian to destroy Madeline, and of course the straight up disgusting concept of a baby who lives off human blood. Solet succeeds in making two very basic & essential pieces of human nature, childbirth and motherhood, downright terrifying. This is the strength of Grace, and what makes it, in my opinion, one of the best horror films of the last decade if not one of the best ever made.

Check out Grace over at:

Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird. If that mockingbird don't sing, Momma's gonna kill someone and feed you their blood . . .

No comments: