September 28, 2009

Grace (2008)
Anchor Bay Entertainment

84 mins. · R
16x9 · 2.35:1

Format
DVD

Audio
English - DD 5.1

Subtitles
English

Extras
Commentary Track, Featurettes, Trailer

Starring
Jordan Ladd, Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris

Review by
Ray Van Horn, Jr.


Rating



(2008)

This movie gained its reputation practically since birth (if you'll pardon the pun) after premiering on a hot streak at this year's Sundance Festival. In particular, writer/director Paul Solet created a stir with his alarming horror piece "Grace" (fleshed out from his 2006 short film of the same name which caught the genre's clique abuzz) after two men were reported to have feinted in the audience at the mega film event.

You can't buy that kind of publicity nowadays. There's something unintentionally Corman-esque to the legend of "Grace" minus the gag insurance policies and electro-shock chairs. On the front, "Grace" is a mild-mannered suspense flick which grows in intensity with the same face-slapping acumen as Takashi Miike's brilliant "Audition." Both films have generated a global awareness through underground word-of-mouth, while Paul Solet inherits the notoriety of having unnerved his spectators to the point of passing out. Then again, Miike also enjoyed the infamy of chasing appalled viewers from Japanese theaters with his gratuitous dénouement.

One is inclined to parallel the harshness and taboo smashing of "Grace" to "Rosemary's Baby," albeit Satan is nowhere to be found nor implied in the former's case. Jordan Ladd (of Cabin Fever fame) plays Madeline Matheson -- any homage here to Richard Matheson, one of "The Twilight Zone's" esteemed writers, which "Grace" certainly shares a kindred soul with? Madeline is a young woman so bent on conceiving a child her obsession will take her to an unfathomable mania once her world becomes traumatized.

After a successful impregnation with her husband Michael (Stephen Park of Slither), Madeline is brought to her wits' end against her domineering mother-in-law Vivian (Gabrielle Rose) to the point she agrees to employ the services of a midwife (Samantha Ferris). Suffering chest pains which force Madeline into the hospital, the hasty decision to induce premature labor by a doctor Vivian has sent on her own whim (Malcolm Stewart) further ostracizes the expectant mother from an imposed reality, setting up for the explosive events later in the film. Ferris intervenes the inducement, yet one gets the impression from the transpiring sequence she might've been best to leave it all be.

When a car crash seizes both the life of Michael and the unborn child in her womb, Madeline falls into such a frigid despair she insists on carrying to full term. Delivering her stillborn with a harrowing love, baby Grace miraculously revives. A phenomenon, yes, but the cost will be great, which brings us to the film's underlying premise: how far will a mother go for her child?

When life seems to be slightly on the ups for the aggrieved mommy, Grace plunges Madeline and all witnesses into a bloody chasm. As the newborn shows signs of deterioration and a ghastly pallor which should frighten all parents no matter the strength of their stomachs, Madeline must sacrifice herself and her values. Grace develops a taste for blood versus nursing milk, and all that remains of Madeline's shattered psyche is her wherewithal to provide.

Gratuitous battery resolves "Grace" in a sanguinary finale which doesn't resist taking the parting shot in a flash forward sequence, "She's teething..." Honestly, Paul Solet could've left Grace in the bowels of hell from which it could logically conclude in Madeline's blood-soaked foyer. A brutal impact in its own right, Solet sends his disturbing drama into the annals of the perverse with the final frame of a gnawed-up Madeline oozing for her ravenous mutant.

Without a doubt "Grace" leaves a brunt wallop upon its audience. Co-produced by Hatchet director Adam Green, Grace goes right for the jugular after sensitively casting an aspirant mother into a world of torment from which most people would crack. Far more inherently brutal than the cannibalistic "It's Alive" brood, a creature such as Grace serves as figurative penance for the fanatical.

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