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.