GRACE Review. [Did I See the Same Movie as Everyone Else?]

Posted by Peter Hall - August 26th 2009 @ 7:00 am

Written and Directed by Paul Solet, 2009


Opening with other people’s opinions is not something I do often, but it should be said that enough people love GRACE that I am aware of my place in the minority camp.  But if you trust my opinion on horror, you’ll temper expectations drastically.  Paul Solet’s feature film debut is not a dreadful movie, per say, but it’s not very good either.  And I apologize if this review is merely a dissection of what others cherished that I didn’t, but there’s really no alternate way for me to think about GRACE.  I feel like everyone has on those glasses from THIRTEEN GHOSTS and I’m the odd man out wondering what’s got everyone else so scared.

First, a synopsis.  Jordan Ladd plays Madeline, an expectant mother who looses her husband and (presumably) her unborn child to a tragic car crash.  With only a few weeks left in her pregnancy, the midwife/estranged college friend Patricia and her now childless mother-in-law Vivian opt (for no logical reason) to abstain from telling Madeline baby Grace will be dead on arrival.  The fateful day arrives and (for no logical reason) baby Grace sputters back to life.  Except Grace isn’t like other babies.  She prefers hemoglobin to vitamin D, thus converting mamma Madeline into a hermit for, well, no logical reason.  Meanwhile the menopausal mother-in-law from hell, Vivian, is longing to have the inexplicably reanimated Grace all to herself.  Thus ensues a boring game of “Who Will Go to the Farthest Extreme to Take Care of the Zombie Baby Nobody Wanted in the First Place”?

Yes, At the start of the film no one wanted this baby.  Vivian thought Madeline was beneath her son and Madeline was in a passionless relationship showing no interest in having a baby (their attempts at conception are borderline robotic).  But along zombaby comes and those two go batshit insane for it while midwife Patricia goes gaga for Madeline.  I’m not sure what the commentary there is, but it’s obvious Solet is reaching for something.  Have the baby you don’t want and it’ll just end up ruining everyone’s lives?  Women are incapable of making a sound decision when a baby is around?  Women fall to pieces when the men in their lives vanish?  I’m inclined to think it’s the last one considering how passively misogynistic the script is.  Hell, the one female character who shows any strength joins the nutty lot of them when she gives in to her closeted lesbian desires.  Even baby Grace, the cause of all the suffering, was written as a literally cannibalistic female whose only chance at normalcy is in the hands of a male doctor.  Jokes and jokes and jokes.

Perhaps the biggest buzz that surrounds GRACE is that it’s the worst nightmare for expecting parents and that it’ll crawl under the skin of anyone preggers.  Again, I just don’t see it.  Where’s the nightmare?  Surely no one fears a zombie baby.  Losing it in a car crash I can understand, but that’s a one-shot catalyst in the film.  Nothing else in Paul Solet’s script really taps into the fears soon-to-be parents will have because it’s too busy cattle prodding a reaction out of you by showing actual cattle and other livestock being slaughtered throughout the film in what must be one of the most devoid character traits I’ve seen in a while.  Madeline cares for living things, we get it, why not develop that within the confines of her arc and not with cheap shots of her watching “the Animal Channel”?  And when was the last time you saw slaughterhouse videos on the fictional equivalent of Animal Planet, anyway?  Cheap-o.

Buzz wise, second only to how subversive GRACE supposedly is is Jordan Ladd’s performance as the film’s anchor.  Again, I just don’t see it.  She’s outshone by every other thespian on screen and, despite being the lead, is without any meaty material to sink her teeth into anyway.  There’s no extreme emotional showdowns between Madeline or Vivian and there are no complicated emotional teardowns in private.  I actually like Jordan Ladd, too, but the truth is any other actress could have hit that mid-range she does throughout.  She’s remarkably indifferent to all the unimaginable things she goes through, which will make you long for a Mia Farrow type to really prove how consumed a fearful mother can be.

And that’s not to speak of the typical “Oh, Lawd, how shocking!” ending or the illogical snap all the main characters face leading up to it.  The whole thing is scuttled by a poorly written script made out of a decent sales pitch that sacrifices even the most basic character consistencies for self-serving lurches towards being edgy that wind up eliciting more guffaws than gasps.  How GRACE ever passed muster for good horror is beyond me.  It’s not about the unbreakable bond shared between mother and child, it’s about a convenient plot device that sets up scenarios we’ve all seen before.  Except now the monster love is trying to hide from the world is a blood thirsty baby instead of a blood thirsty adult.  Come to think of it, the genre foundation of GRACE is basically HELLRAISER without the blending of pain and pleasure.

Would have been a lot cooler if some Cenobites showed up in place of, well, any threat GRACE has to offer.

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rss 12 comments
  1. Dave
    August 26th, 2009 | 10:02 am | #1

    I haven’t seen this film yet, but I’m glad to see a negative review of it after reading every other blog suck its cock endlessly. It seems like everyone is so consumed by the need to bash remakes and sequels (even good ones!) that when something original comes along that isn’t completely awful, they sings its praises like it’s The Exorcist. Case in point, Drag Me to Hell.

  2. Beau
    August 26th, 2009 | 10:50 am | #2

    It sounds like a bullshit rip-off of Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive. That movie has the same basic plot. The baby isn’t a zombie but a deformed monster baby that kills people. But It’s Alive has some clever social commentary and the characters behave in a fairly believable way. Grace just sounds like that joke from Dead Alive stretched to a whole movie, only not funny. You should check out It’s Alive.

  3. adam charles
    August 27th, 2009 | 8:36 am | #3

    Thanks for saving me money, I was gonna blind buy this off the positive word-of-mouth. Aw hell, you know that’s a lie, knowing me I’ll probably still buy it. Shut Up!

  4. Angie
    September 21st, 2009 | 3:09 pm | #4

    Excuse me where you high by any chance when you saw this movie or did you just watch the preview and decide wing it on the review because you seemed to have missed some big plot points in the film.
    First of all they tell her that her baby is dead she knows and decided to carry her to term anyway.
    Second Of course she wants the baby she starts crying when she’s talking about how she miscarried during first two pregnancies. How could you will a baby back to life if you didn’t want it? If that was the case there would be more movies about unwed teenage mothers reanimating there dumpster prom babies.
    Third she’s hiding because she doesn’t want anyone to take Grace away from her. She flat out refuses to go to the hospital because she doesn’t know what will happen to her baby
    Fourth she was so obviously a lesbian. They discuss it that’s why the midwife is so invested in her well being because they used to be a couple.
    I’m not saying you have to like the movie its your opinion.
    It dose move a little slowly and I would have liked more gore but you review seems based on the fact that it didn’t make sense to you which is just nipple bleeding crazy

  5. September 21st, 2009 | 3:18 pm | #5

    I’m not saying the movie didn’t make any sense. I understood the dots it was connecting for the viewer just fine, my problem is with the dots the characters fail to connect. And I further understand that’s also the point, that one Grace arrives these characters lose all grip on reality, but to me that’s not interesting storytelling: it’s an excuse to make a movie about an undead baby.

    Though if Jordan Ladd’s character willed Grace back to life, then yes, I must have been high because I don’t remember that sequence at all.

  6. September 22nd, 2009 | 3:36 pm | #6

    I did not enjoy this movie at all. I saw she supposedly willed the baby back to life when she was holding it, it was rather fast and easy process. I thought it was extremely boring and slow. I guess I am just used to different types of horror movies. To me this was not a horror movie at all.

  7. M.
    September 24th, 2009 | 2:41 pm | #7

    I sat through the whole movie waiting for an explanation why the baby was a zombie (or just suddenly came to life). Was it because of the mother’s vegan lifestyle (stupid, but at least it’s something)? Also, when the mother fed the baby animal blood, she threw it up and instead opted for the mother’s blood – Why is this? And was there any point to the discussion about the grandmother’s breasts, and why she nursed not only her husband but (presumably) the doctor? Just a bunch of random BS that has no relation to the plot…Not that this movie had one to begin with. Okay, so mother gives birth to baby that likes blood. The end.

    WOW! That movie was GREAT!

  8. nj
    October 7th, 2009 | 8:13 am | #8

    K this movie has left me crazy!!! Really dont understand any of it…LOL….What was the connection between madeline and the midwife.. what happened to the bodies left in the house??? what they just skipped over that part??? Crazy///Was Grace just dead,,, and needed blood to stay alive… her temp was low,, and the flies…I dont know… thought it was gonna be different… Pretty disapointed…. Found there really was no story…. Just a baby drinking blood…. Nothing else….. Not a movie I would recomend nor ever see again……

  9. JC
    October 14th, 2009 | 8:06 am | #9

    I guess for me I didn’t take the movie so literally. It seemed like all the characters in the movie were “feeding” off eachother…doing things in order to get what they ultimately wanted. The movie was more about the disturbing relationships between the people in the film, rather than the baby. The baby was more of a catalyst. Honestly, I still believe that the baby was in fact “dead” (the mom took home the corpse and acted as if it were alive) and that the people who saw her as alive needed to believe in the lie in order to get what they wanted. The doctor needed the mother in law to “help with his problem” so the child had to be alive, the mother in law, of course, was grieving over her lost son, the midwife wanted to be with the mother again, and of course, the mom so desparately wanted her child. The bits with the animal slaughtering videos were just supposed to be ironic because the mom was such an animal-rights nut…but it also spoke to the notion that people do worse things to each other, sometimes justifying it as “love”, it shows that the literal eating of another living thing is at least justifyable and natural. Even if the director inteneded the baby to actualy be a living-dead child that needed blood to survive, I do believe his point was to make us more horrified at the other characters in the film.

  10. diana
    November 29th, 2010 | 4:52 am | #10

    Just saw it and rather liked it. To answer a previous question:
    Everyone knows you CANNOT feed a vampirezombie baby cow blood until AT LEAST six months. They need mothers blood.

  11. Mrs.Proudfoot
    August 18th, 2011 | 5:15 pm | #11

    It wasn’t so much scary as sad in a way how the mother couldn’t cope with the child’s death and her feelings brought about it’s twisted resurrection. From this point on the movie spirals towards a wonder not meaning to spoil anything but

    *MIGHT BE A SPOILER TYPE THING DEPENDING ON DEFINITION*

    Why did everyone think oh yes we have a vampire but we should totally keep it alive. I mean the distortion of character spread to all the main chicks and took any horror meant to be featured on the child away. I mean what was the attractionto the baby. It wasn’t that cute.

  12. itsallaboutthewine
    December 13th, 2011 | 6:51 am | #12

    Does no one get that this film is about women as “food”? We biologically are designed to breast feed the next generation. These days we don’t have to (thank you science, thank you margaret sanger and all the scientists and physicians who have worked to make pregnacncy and motherhood safer and healthier and more comfortable), but the fact remains, women are , for whatever one’s accomplishments, talents and desires, food. We are also FOOD!!! The other undercurrent is that the men are almost superfluous other than to provide sprem. (Where’s the love…? :) There’s a breast fetish running through this film (e.g. like the creepy doctor with the ancient milking kit). But it’s not just men’s fixation on boobs, but womens’ focus on breast feeding and breatsts in general as being very much a part of what women are and do and what defines femininity. I thought it was at least a bit different and interesting for that reason. The scene where the mother-in-law enlists her husband for sex, but doesn’t want him to fondle her breasts–only feed from them–might be heavy handed, but it WAS creepy and the point was made. Could’ve beeen a better film or at least better as a short for what i got out of it anyway–but it didn’t seem as misogynistic or anti-mothergood, so much as at least examining some of the terror and perversity of the female biological necessity of providing food, itself.

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