Continuing February’s theme of strong female characters leads in horror movies is 2009’s Grace. Jordan Ladd gives an amazing performance here. Read on and let me know what you think!!!
I was really looking forward to seeing this one the first time I heard about it. Jordan Ladd quickly became one of my favourite genre actresses since seeing her in Cabin Fever (2002), Madhouse (2004; crappy movie but she was excellent), Death Proof (2007), and Hostel Part 2 (2007). Are all the movies she’s in classics? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But she brings such a sexy/innocent touch to all her roles that you can’t help but root for and love her. She really surprised me in Grace. Her portrayal of Madeline Matheson was her most mature role to date, and she does an amazing job. Ladd isn’t playing her typical role of being a victim here; she’s playing a mature woman who refuses to be a victim.
I started hearing about Grace around the same time I saw Deadgirl. I think by now you all know how I feel about Deadgirl!! Oh; you don’t? Well check out my review for it here. After the HUGELY disappointing Deadgirl, I started becoming a little reluctant to see Grace. Grace didn’t get the amount of hype as Deadgirl, but what I did read about it promised a disturbing experience. I just wasn’t up for another colossal disappointment.
The story opens on a pretty sullen note: We join Madeline and hubby
Michael (Stephen Park) as they are having sex. The look on Jordan’s face is at first kinda amusing; she’s just lying there with no emotion at all. But through the lingering camera the scene becomes quite sad. Ladd has a distant look in her eyes as she lies there; almost as if she was trying to disconnect with the situation she was in. After that awkward opening we soon learn she’s had two previous miscarriages and everything kinda falls into place. Sex has become nothing but a tool for Ladd’s Madeline. She wants a baby more than anything in the world and it’s gotten to the point where she can’t even take pleasure in sex anymore. Sex is just a tool; a means to an end. And since she’s already had two miscarriages she can’t take any pleasure from having sex because she’s afraid it’s just gonna lead to the disappointment and heartache of yet another miscarriage. Yes; you get all this emotion simply from the look on Ladd’s face. Writer-director Paul Solet sets the atmosphere for the entire movie based on the simple look on Ladd’s face in the opening shot.
We then skip ahead and learn Madeline is eight months pregnant. She seems a little more comfortable and happy with her hubby now, but you just get the feeling the “happiness” here is a façade that could come crashing down at any second. Despite her rocky marriage Madeline also has a few other sources of tension in her life: She has a domineering, borderline crazy mother in law, Vivian (Gabrielle Rose), and there’s one helluva back story with her mid-wife, Patricia (Samantha Ferris). You can almost hear Jerry Springer: “And next up we have a woman whose mid-wife used to be her lesbian lover”; while the crowd chants “Jer-ry Jer-ry Jer-ry.” Not only were they lovers, but Patricia is still obsessed with Madeline; an obsession that plays heavily in the movie’s end. Combine these elements with Madeline’s constant fear of having another miscarriage and you have a pressure cooker ready to explode. And Solet creates this atmosphere in the first five minutes of the film!!
Madeline’s pain-in-the-ass mother in law doesn’t approve of her having a
mid-wife to care for and deliver the baby … at all. But Madeline doesn’t trust modern medicine and partly blames it for her previous miscarriages. Plus she wants to give birth the way women have been doing it for centuries. And her spineless husband doesn’t help matters at all. As soon as he’s around his mom he caves in like a cheap folding chair at a Jenny Craig meeting.
Just when you think Madeline’s pressure cooker life couldn’t get any worse a horrible accident occurs near the end of her eighth month that kills the baby. But despite what both doctors and her mid-wife tell her she’s determined to both carry the baby to full term and “give birth” to it naturally as planned. The big day comes and she is in the pool of warm water giving birth. Patricia is there supporting her.
After a final, bloody push Madeline gives birth to a bounce-less baby girl. Yes; it’s dead. But in an incredibly creepy, disturbing, and fascinating scene (that should have won Ladd multiple acting awards) she WILLS the baby back alive. That’s the only way to describe it … she brings her still-born baby back to life solely through willing it back to life. After the baby starts crying Madeline isn’t surprised for one second. The mid-wife and her assistant can’t believe what they just witnessed, but to Madeline there was never a doubt that the baby would survive. She even names the baby Grace because “she’s a miracle.” Fucking creepy dude!! You can pretty much pinpoint the moment when Ladd goes completely off her nut. It’s a truly harrowing scene that must be seen in order to get the full impact. From this point on the atmosphere of the film is even heavier and you just know things aren’t gonna end well for any of the characters involved.
Not long after she gets home the baby starts exhibiting some odd behavior.
It rejects Madeline’s breast milk and all kinds of baby formula. Plus the baby has those little “baby teeth” that seem to be a bit sharper than the average baby’s. Grace bites Madeline’s nipple and seems to really enjoy the blood. A lot. In fact it’s the first time Grace actually feeds. Add to this a strange, dead-like odor that comes from Grace’s crib and the swarms of flies that seem to be attracted to Grace and Madeline soon realizes that Grace is dead. Or undead. Or a zombie-baby. They never give the baby a label of what she is, but all the clues are there that Grace is indeed a zombie-baby. Madeline even tries to feed Grace organic cow blood (that has no growth hormones or crap in it) to no avail. Grace vomits up the blood that would have little Regan MacNeil gagging!! But Madeline can’t keep feeding Grace her own blood. She is getting weaker with each feeding. So what’s a poor new mother to do that has an undead baby who will only drink human blood? Start killing the pain-in-the-ass people in your life, of course.
Once Solet establishes that Grace is in fact (un)dead, this movie could have easily become a ridiculous “baby killing adults” eye-roller. But Solet never lets this movie slip into the realm of “stupidity.” Considering that Solet’s only previous films were all short films (some as short as 6 minutes), he shows remarkable restraint in staying true to his vision as to what he wants Grace to be: A horror film with dramatic overtones that at the end of the day is about a woman surrounded by loss who really just wants to be a mother. Excellent job Mr. Solet!!
The only negative thing I can say here is about the film’s pace. It’s really ssslllooooowwww moving people. It clocks in at 84 minutes but feels as though it was on for 3 hours. I’m not sure why Solet decided to keep everything so slow. He did such a great job of establishing the mood early on that a quicker pace would have easily made this a five-star flick. This, though, is my only complaint of this otherwise amazing flick. All the performances are fantastic. Jordan Ladd really does an amazing job as a woman walking the edge of sanity who ultimately takes the leap. But you can’t simply write her off as some crazy bitch. Her performance is so brilliant that you feel for her: She just lost her husband and her baby in a car accident and the only person in her “family” is her bat-shit crazy mother in law. She tries to hold onto the one part of her life that will make her feel whole and connect her to her dead husband. That love is so strong that she wills her dead baby back to life and loves her baby so much that any mother watching this movie will completely understand what she was going through. (But expecting mothers definitely will not wanna watch this flick!!!).
Towards the end Ladd accepts what her baby is and still loves Grace with all
her heart and soul (as a mother would). But events start to escalate: Vivian sends the family doctor over to basically steal Grace (she thinks Madeline is an unfit parent), and Patricia’s obsession of Madeline continues to grow. In probably the most disturbing scene of the film we see just how fucked up Vivian is. She has decided she needs to get Grace away from Madeline and then turns to her hubby for sex. Just wait until you see that scene folks. Eewww!! Hey, does anyone have use for a penis? After watching that scene I won’t be needing mine for quite a while!!!
The ending will blow your mind. I won’t tell you anything about it other than Solet leaves us with the fact that Grace is ready for solid food. It’ll send chills up and down your spine!! Don’t let the slow pace keep you from seeing this one. This is a strong, well made, well acted flick that you’ll be thinking about long after the ending credits are over. Definitely check this one out.
Director: Paul Solet (also writer)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 2.5 out of 5 brains (its definitely a zombie baby, but it’s done so well!!)
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer