Starring: Jordan Ladd, Stephen Park, Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris, Malcolm Stewart
Written & Directed By: Paul Solet
Grace is a beautiful horror film that centers on motherhood and the questioning of how far you would go to provide for your child. It is Paul Solet’s first feature, which is pretty astounding. Although the gore, story, and structure are very different, what the film is at its core reminded me a lot of Inside. The same sort of feelings were invoked within me through both of these films and the same themes embody them. Grace depicts horror with meaning and uses emotional connections that we all have to bring this out, almost sympathizing with it.
Madeline (Ladd) and Michel (Park) are attempting to have a child for the second time. She is pregnant and they have been meeting with a lot of different doctors to find the one right for her. Madeline hasn’t liked any of them so far and visits an alternative clinic where she is cared for by Dr. Patricia Lang (Ferris). She wants to avoid hospitals and regular doctors at all costs. She eats all vegan food and is trying to do everything she can to make sure her baby is healthy. Michael tries to be as supportive of her as he can, but his controlling mother doesn’t like Madeline or the way she is handling things. One night, Michael and Madeline get in to a car accident. From the crash, the baby ends up dying in the womb. Madeline still insists that they don’t take the baby out of her yet. It remains inside of her for 3 weeks until it comes out. When it does Madeline insists on holding the baby. Miraculously enough, it comes back to life.
Madeline becomes extremely secluded from the rest of the world after this. She refuses to go to a doctor. Patricia’s assistant worries that Madeline is too sick for them to deal with and think she should go to another doctor. Patricia ends up talking to her and trying to convince her, but even the mention of this causes Madeline to lash out. She won’t let Vivian, Michael’s mother, see the baby. Vivian ends up hiring a friend of hers, Dr. Richard Sohn, to visit her so he can declare that she is an unfit mother, thus giving Vivian custody. Madeline is very sick, but it is beyond what anyone would suspect. Grace won’t eat any regular food, only blood and only human blood at that. Madeline gives her blood to Grace and becomes extremely anemic. She can’t bare the thought of anything happening to Grace, which brings out her violent streak.
The acting was incredible in the film. It’s a slow paced film and focuses on the characters a great deal. It was really up to the actors to reveal a great deal about the characters to give us a sense that we really knew them and could care about them even when their actions were questionable. Jordan Ladd as Madeline did a wonderful job. She was caring, dangerously protective, and really transitioned well through the women she was and the woman she becomes. We question Madeline, but we can’t help but feel for her since we understand her desperation and what’s behind it.
Gabrielle Ross also did a great job as the demeaning mother-in-law. It’s clear she has some protection issues of her own. Since her son is grown up she wants Madeline’s baby for herself. Ross put forth an evil mentality while still showing a certain level of desperation through the needs that weren’t being satisfied in her life. She’s a villain but there is reasoning through what she does.
The score in the film is very powerful and brings out the emotions of the characters. The pacing of the film is very different from most horror films. There is some blood through most of the film. The horror themes are there, but they are much more subtle until the movie hits the climax. When it hits, it really hits; the tension heightens and the blood flows. The film has the perfect ending that continues in the direction it has been building while actually being funny at the same time.
Grace is best described as dramatic horror. Placing it in to any sub-genre of horror is pretty hard to do. The baby is vampiric in that it needs human blood to survive and since it was dead and brought back to life it is among the living dead. Grace really isn’t a zombie or a vampire movie though. What might be able to classify it in these two genres is far too subtle. With such a vastly different tone and pacing than you would expect in either of the genres along with the execution it really makes it impossible to categorize it like that. That just goes to show how original Grace is, it’s one of a kind.
Solet covers new ground and does so with such elegancy, passion, and meaning. He shows great understanding of what it is like to be a mother; to do anything for your child, even kill. This is surprising since he is a male with no children. It just shows further the time he has invested in to his characters to really depict them honestly. Grace centers on loss quite a bit. There are several characters who die in the film. The first baby Madeline tried to have she lost. If that hadn’t have happened I am not sure that she would have acted in the same way. I feel she would have been more accepting of her baby’s death rather than trying to keep something evil alive. It was because of the loss though that she couldn’t accept death during birth or when it hurt her physically. Grace is a unique horror film that takes its time, giving us complex and interesting characters around a creepy yet very emotional premise.