CAPSULE: GRACE (2009)

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DIRECTED BY: Paul Solet

FEATURING: Jordan Ladd, Gabrielle Rose, Stephen Park

PLOT: A mother gives birth to a stillborn baby girl after a car wreck leaves

Still from Grace (2009)

her young family dead.  The baby, however, comes back to life shortly after she is born.  Unfortunately, the infant girl, with her proclivity to attract flies and drink human blood, is far from what her mother expected from parenthood.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  There are sequences in Grace that definitely approach a state of uncomfortable strangeness, but too often the movie subverts itself and stews in its own conformity by sticking to horror conventions.  By the time there’s a chance for a chance for what might have been a truly remarkable climax, the film has devolved into a maternal instincts cat-and-mouse thriller of sorts.

COMMENTS:  Out of the gate, Grace has a strong concept that needs to be applauded.  The undead-baby market has been virtually untapped, and I’m glad someone finally “went there.”  The indie horror circuit has buzzed about writer and director Paul Solet as the next big thing, and this, his feature-length debut, is a notable entry amidst the middling horror releases this year.  This is a strong film that is fresh, fairly terrifying, and smarter than one might think.

Grace has a complicated spirit that masks itself in familiar trappings. It has an intellectual mindset, full of surprisingly difficult questions about a myriad of issues: veganism, lesbianism, midwives, maternal instincts, and coping with loss. And while we don’t always know where the filmmakers stand on said issues, posing the questions is intriguing enough.  The ideas revolve around the modern family, and its new-found complexities in the 21st century coalescing with the timeless trials of parenthood.  We are pressed into complex relationships where people are intertwined in ways that are hard to understand, and at times hard to take; this is a movie where a woman asks her husband to suck her breast like he was a baby out of maternal grief for her dead son!

But in the end, it chickens out quietly and ends up being a horror movie like all the rest.  The plot untangles itself rather quickly as we shift from a particularly nasty mother-daughter relationship to a thriller involving a mother-in-law off her rocker.  In a brief 87 minutes, we’re back to basics with only a hint of weird lying around as a memento in the form of Grace, a somewhat zombified child.  What could have been something remarkable is instead just good, and while it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, I was really looking for something more from a film that proposed such interesting ideas.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s a horror movie but not a simple genre widget. That it’s rooted in reality gives its strange images the power to disturb. Even its environment is unusual, informed by women’s studies and alternative medicine.”-Michael Ordona, LA Times (contemporaneous)

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