Directed by Paul Solet (2009)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Sep 16 2009
I've been compiling my horror "All-Decade" list for Splattercast 150 and in order to make sure I have as complete a list as possible, I've been going back and watching flicks I might have missed. One of them is Paul Solet's Grace which, my memory is very hazy, I seem to remember being sent a screener of many years back when it was a short film. I don't actually remember seeing the short film so I either stuck it in a pile and forgot about it or I was simply in contact with Mr. Solet. Whatever the case may have been, Grace was funded and became a feature length film starring Jordan Ladd. The DVD was released this past Tuesday and I was pretty anxious to see what all the buzz was about.
The story is very straight forward. Ladd plays a pregnant woman who, after two failed pregnancies, decides to eschew traditional hospital care to the chagrin of her overbearing mother-in-law. Instead, she hooks up with a licensed midwife; the kind of chick who performs water births and all that jazz. Unfortunately, Ladd and her husband are in a car accident. Her husband and unborn baby are killed but Ladd resolves to carry the dead baby to term. Once she gives birth, the presumed dead baby is miraculously alive. However, Ladd soon realizes that her baby needs human blood for nourishment. You can probably see where this is going.
Grace is certainly a well shot film. Solet doesn't do anything that will make you "ooh and ahh" him as a director. In fact, it could be reasonably argued that there isn't a whole lot of inspiring direction at all. The film is shot and handled very generically...but it looks really good. The lighting is excellent and the shots have a glossy "solid" sheen to them. In other words, it's all very generic in the presentation but the production value looks good. The acting is also of high quality. Ladd gives a performance that meanders a bit but she never goes to high or low. That's a positive in that it keeps a cohesiveness to the film but a negative in that she never really conveys that sense of the mother-child relationship that Solet is going for. She tries, but it just doesn't come across like it should.
Don't go into this film expecting sensationalism or shocking imagery. Grace is a film that, somewhat surprisingly considering all the hype, is restrained in its use of shock. In fact, that really enhances the overall quality of the film. The fact that Solet plays the material straight when he could have so easily gone the route of exploitation is a positive. Unfortunately, he can't resist throwing in a shock shot for the final beat of the film. It felt awkward and out of place compared to the tone of the rest of the film.
Where Grace fails is in the usual "I made a short film now let me try to expand it to feature length!" mentality that a lot of filmmakers have. Frankly, the material just doesn't support the extra screentime. The subplot with the midwife feels tacked on to pad the runtime. The other subplot, dealing with Ladd's mother-in-law trying to prepare herself for motherhood as she tries to get the child taken away, is promising but ultimately wasted. Even the focus of the film, the relationship between Ladd and her dead baby (though the baby is alive, it stinks of death, flies are attracted to it, and it appears to rot unless it can feed on blood) isn't believable. For example, the baby starts sucking blood from Ladd's breast. Even though you might have a paranoid fear of doctors, nobody I know would wait days on end and let this continue without seeking out an emergency room. I understand that the character refuses to see "professionals", but damn, that just strains credulity. And then to simply go to the supermarket and buy meat to drain blood to give to your kid? Sorry, couldn't relate.
Grace is a well-shot and well acted film that strains under the pressure of a feature length run time. I wouldn't say "don't" watch this movie, but don't be mistaken that it is something that it's not. This won't be appearing on any "All-Decade" list of mine. It's simply a middle of the pack horror film. One you'll probably be mildly interested in and then forget about the next day. And just in case you think I might be biased because I'm a man and that this movie just isn't made for me, I also watched this with my girlfriend and she thought it was crap. I wouldn't go that far, but it sort of sums up the disappointment we both had when it was over.