Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Grace (2009)

NB: Content/trigger warning for baby and birth-related horror!

Despite a juicy premise, this film was a big disappointment. Grace sadly lacks the gut-punch necessary for baby-horror.

We follow the tale of Madeline (Jordan Ladd), a heavily pregnant woman who loses her husband and baby in a car crash. To the shock of everyone, Madeline insists on carrying the child to term regardless and, in a strange twist in the birthing pool, she somehow "wills" the baby back to life again...

We know where this is going. The poster tells us as much. Baby Grace doesn't want milk, this new mother soon discovers: she wants blood. Madeline - a staunch vegan, no less - must now cross some serious ethical lines in order to keep her baby happy.

I'll admit, at first glance this appears to be good quality ingredients for a bone-chilling stew. The topic of babies in horror alone is one that makes most people deeply uncomfortable. But Grace is further loaded up with two additional subplots: (1) A very, very odd mother-in-law who's kept her milk supply active for decades and wants to steal Grace for herself(!), and (2) Madeline's midwife is actually an obsessive ex-lover of hers. In fact we're left to wonder whether Madeline only married at all, in order to have a baby? The opening sex scene certainly shows her absolutely checked out from any kind of pleasure in fucking her husband. She's literally just there to conceive.

For a film with such a small cast, this all plays out just as muddled as it sounds. There are some nice moments (the gathering flies in the baby's room; Madeline cutting a victim's veins open with scissors! Squick!) but for the most part it's paced too sluggishly with a lack of real unease about what's going on. Which is crazy when you think about it. Baby-based horror that isn't horrific?! Grace also suffers from a real kicker of a horror genre disease: the absolutely absurd, shitty CGI'd last shot before the credits. I was already over this movie by this point, but that was the very final nail in the zombie baby crib.

The most fun I had watching this was playing a game of "Real Baby or Fake Baby?", spotting the rubber doll used for the more gruesome Grace shots. 

Grace was based on a short film of the same name, from the same writer/director (Paul Solet) but instead of keeping any tightness in plot that a small project might have - much like a short story or a play - this feels like the plot was bloated up to meet the confines of feature-length. It's a simple, decent idea surrounded by too much extra stuff that doesn't really work.

There are vastly superior films about pregnancy, birth, babies and motherhood... Rosemary's Baby, Inside, AntibirthShelley... and obviously a tonne more - tell me in the comments if you have a favourite one! My advice would be to check out one of those instead.

(But if you must watch this, it's streaming on Shudder at time of writing).

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