Being Film #10 in Hail Horror 4
Being a parent means dealing with dozens of different things a day. It's confusing, ecstatic, maddening - sometimes all at once. All in the name of that tiny little life you're now responsible for. GRACE, a disturbing little horror film from Paul Solet preys on those feelings - I cringed with the weighted memories of my son at that age during some of the more graphics moments - but the film takes that feeling of being a parent further - it tries to say something about feminism, veganism, and alternative lifestyles, all while telling a gruesome story about the lengths a mother will go to for her baby. But while multi-taking and being able to handle a dozen things at once is a necessity for any parent, in a film - especially a horror film, it can be more than a bit distracting.
Madeline is a modern, liberal woman, finally pregnant with her first child. The beginning of the movie is filled with flashes of butchered cows cut next to her pouring soy milk. She and her husband Michael and looking into having their child's birth done naturally, with a mid-wife. All this goes against the wishes of her slightly off-kilter mother-in-law Vivian, would like nothing better than to have Madeline in the care of her own doctor. Both worlds collide when after a car accident that leaves both Michael and the unborn baby dead. Madeline decides to carry the baby to term anyway, and after a traumatic birth the baby girl indeed appears stillborn until she miraculously revives in Madeline's arms. "Grace," Madeline names her.
It's soon apparent things aren't normal with Grace. She has an odd odor, and attracts flies like rotted meat. It's gets worse than that, though. Grace begins to get weak and displays bloody rashes along her body. She won't eat anything - except the blood of her mother.
And there you go. Madeline tries everything, including the blood from packaged steaks and other, more brutal alternatives, but Grace wants her mommy. Literally.
The problem is that Grace the baby knows exactly what she wants, but GRACE the film is a little less sure of itself. It wants to say things about alternative medicine, about veganism and animal cruelty, and the bonds between parents and their children, but the way it goes about doing all these things is haphazard and clumsy, often a blaring news piece on television or a quick comment made in conversation. And when the focus is on the characters, they often feel like quirky sketches instead of real people with bonds to one another. If GRACE is effective at all, it comes from the small monstrous moments between Madeline and Grace. Solet, expanding his short film of the same name, reaches into the "Dead Baby" taboo bag and dumps its contents throughout the movie. Breast feeding scenes are particularly squeamish...
It all ends pretty much as you'd expect it to - there's a fairly predictable "twist" ending and a fair amount of violence, although it's somewhat surprising in where it comes from. GRACE feels very much like an expanded short film, padded out with a lot of half-baked ideas that don't come full circle. Somewhere in all of this is a joke about comparing the film to thin, watery skim milk as opposed to rich, robust and healthy breast milk. But I'm too tired beat by this film to look for it. Check it out if the concept interests you. Otherwise, I'd skip GRACE.