Directed by Paul Solet
So is this what Blade's mother went through?
I've been watching the supposed "best" horror movies of 2009 so I can make a solid list of the years best. Grace has been put on many of these lists and I went in thinking this was a shoe in to be on there.
Well horror minions, its not going to be.
It's a very well made flick, the aura of the mommy and daughter bond is nurturingly depraved but all in all, I just didn't feel it pushed it into the stratosphere of OMG awesomeness!
For me Grace is an exercise of stretching a short (see the short via Freddy in Space) into a full length film and actually making it worse. It should have played out a little more surreal. Some have actually said its a stretch to call Grace a horror movie. That its much more. I disagree. It's pure horror. I mean its about a baby that craves blood! What's more horrorific than that?
That's not to say the movie doesn't have it creepy moments. It's a mixed bag of roasted peanut goodness plus some terrible tasting cashews in there. So as much as I wanted to love Grace, I just couldn't. And so we're going into a trimester breakdown of the film. Yup, I'm using gratuitous cliches.
The 1st trimester (aka the first 35 minutes)
Jordan Ladd and Stephen Park are Madeline and Michael Matheson, who have been trying to have a child and finally have one on the way. We meet Madeline's mother in law Vivian (Gabrielle Rose) who we get right away is one of those antagonizing mothers that can drive you crazy. Seems Madeline is a vegan, soy milking PETA endorsing type and she wants to deliver naturally so they go see a midwife Patricia (Samantha Ferris).
The first 35 is all set up to the birth and death of our newborn Grace. After a scare in the hospital, a car accident leaves Michael dead, Madeline alive and the baby...well we don't know what the baby's condition is. Madeline has the pregnancy to term and delivers via Patricia, a stillborn baby....very much dead.
The penultimate scene (taken from the short) is when after giving birth Patricia proclaims "You can't will a...". It's chilling and effective when the baby jumps to life. Very twistedly goosebumpy and you know this can only lead to successive WTF moments. The movie than goes into those moments via slow burn. Most of America has ADD, so with a 5 hour energy drink and a Red Bull I painstakingly paid attention.
So what do we get?
- Grace deteriorating via a bath
- Grace throwing up mommy's breast milk
- And a closing shot from the POV of Grace lookingthrough the fly net with Madeline looking at the accumulating flies (this is one of the best scenes in the film)
This is where we see mom and daughter bond and were the supposed transcendent portion of this bond. Madeline soon finds out Grace craves blood and she does everything she can to accommodate. The scenes of nurturing seem lacking for me. From sacrificing her vegan ways to a obvious murder, I could see the argument being made for the pro "What would you do for your child?" contingent.
It's a surreal motherhood in action and fascinating to watch but here's my beef. Sure, Grace shows sign of zombieness or vampire hybridy but for being the titular character should have been a little more anti-normal. If we saw Grace decomposing (yeah that does sound horrible I know) that would have made more of an impact on Madeline's actions. In the short, Grace is shown in q more gruesome fashion. I think we really needed that so we can see Madeline's transformation of mom to psycho mom.
You can't tell me the vagueness of whats Grace is didn't bother you. This is a horror movie and some subtle hint would have been nice. Ladd is solid in her performance as we see her succumb the demands of servicing Grace. Mentally and physically we see her deteriorate just like her baby. It's a good parallel and I would have liked to see more of it.
The 3rd trimester (the last 15 minutes)
The conclusion is filled with reveals and discovery by all those involved. I did like the poetic last moments of Madeline being a mom to the very end. But for a film that built up a intensity of this mother-daughter bond, we end on such an odd note and with a tad of black humor. Why the black humor now? This could have easily been inserted throughout the film to relax the audience and the viewer and play on their natural instincts.
For 70 or so minutes, Grace doesn't give us moments to breathe. It's psychologically and disturbing throughout. That's not to say I wanted some ha ha's on such a serious toned movie, but we are dealing with a bloodsucking infant here.
Overall, Grace is stretched out from a short to a feature and you can see some of the stretch marks on what didn't work. The idea is sound, the performances solid and the bits of gore are well done. But at the end of it, Grace's message doesn't resonate intensely on the "What would you do for your child" theme like say The Children or Orphan does (killer kid movies that emanate that theme perfectly).
Grace is definitely unlike any horror film I've ever seen (I do agree on that). But if I were to be the midwife on this movie and help it deliver, my suggestion to Paul Solet would be this.
Push the boundaries and go beyond the beyond. In other words, not just make a feature out of your short but challenge the viewer thematically and visually with something they will never forget.
Hammer to the head
Bottle blood drainage
See WTF moment
Old people doing it!! My eyes! My eyes!! I'm blind!!!
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
This is the 2nd time this week I haven't fully liked one of the supposed best horror movies of 2009. I don't get caught in any bandwagon hype and I stick by my thoughts. Like em or hate em, I review a film in a way where the average horror moviegoer gets represented as well as the typically jaded viewer.
Grace is available on BluRay and DVD via Amazon.com.
Check out the trailer below.