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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 08.05.09] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Paul Solet
Writers: Paul Solet
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Hal MacDermot
Rating: 8 out of 10

Some mothers like to hang twirling mobile butterfly things above baby’s crib. New mom Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) would like that for diddums, but instead she’s forced to hang up twirling rolls of sticky paper from the ceiling to keep off the flies. That’s what happens when you give birth to a still born baby that returns to life, and instead of milk, starts drinking blood. Solet’s powerful psychological horror was a Sundance Official Selection, and there were reports of audience members fainting. I was skeptical of the reports, as they sound like hype, but I can honestly report this is a disturbing and great movie. Early Cronenberg and of course Larry Cohen come to mind. Grace is not for the weak of constitution, and young moms out there might possibly want to think twice about a ticket, but if you’re a lover of horror movies that do your head in, this is your baby.

Madeleine and hubby Michael (Stephan Park) have been trying for a baby for years. She’s had several miscarriages, but after much it’s-time-to-try-again-sex, she gets pregnant. Right from the start, Solet cleverly suggests the nausea of morning sickness with close-ups of the family noisily chewing food. Way to go Foley-chew artists. Suspicious of standard medicine, Madeleine insists on attending new age birth clinic run by her former University professor and vegan biscuit baking Patricia (Samantha Ferris). Soon after, there’s a car crash and hubby and baby are killed. Madeleine decides to carry the dead baby to course and give birth anyway. After a bloody delivery, the force of her maternal love miraculously brings the baby back to life. Unfortunately, it soon turns out that cute looking baby’s dietary needs are somewhat extreme.

Based on his 2006 short film, Solet’s debut feature explores the bond between mother and baby. How far will a mother go to feed her baby? Of course normally that’s something beautiful, but here, the sacred bond is subverted into something darker and a lot more icky (yes, I know I shouldn’t use that word, whatever). What happens, for example, when Mom’s own body fluids are no longer enough to sustain baby? Mother’s gratitude turns to desperation and brighter, maternal colors turn to darker, sickly greens. Jordan Ladd (Grindhouse: Deathproof, Cabin Fever and yes Alan’s granddaughter) does a great job as an obsessive mother, and one who knows more than one use for scissors. The veteran Canadian actress Gabrielle Rose also delivers an excellent performance as the controlling, grieving mother in law. What’s interesting in both cases is the operative word “mother.” Jordan’s protecting the life of her baby and Gabrielle has lost her baby (Jordan’s hubby) and now has her eyes on the new sprogg. Perhaps if she’d tried to breast feed the little darling, she’d think twice.

Paul Solet considers splat pack director Eli Roth, of Cabin Fever and Hostel, his mentor. I can see the inspiration, but I actually thought Grace has another added level of psychological subversion. I really found the film quite unsettling. It’s full of great touches, like Madeleine the vegan obsessively watching the Animal Planet TV channel, as animals are slaughtered or suckle their young. Or the antique brass breast pump. Paul Solet’s done a great and disturbing job here, and I’m looking forward to his next. Grace will be on limited release in theaters on 14th August.

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