Event Report: Grace Screening at USC

On Friday, June 12th, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts hosted Paul Solet’s startling debut feature film Grace (review here) for a packed house. In fact, there was not an empty seat in Norris Hall, and there were even people camped out on the floor throughout the screening.

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

The USC event was The Horror Chick’s third time screening Grace, and honestly, Solet’s film stands up to multiple viewings. There’s something about the subject matter of what lengths people will go to for someone they love intertwined with a script that digs under your skin relentlessly and does not let go until the credits roll that has kept me riveted every single time.

What I enjoyed was seeing Grace amongst several hundred people who hadn’t seen the film yet and had no idea of the disturbing journey they were going to be taken on by Solet and those involved with crafting the movie. The audience fell silent throughout most of the film, sporadically responding to the its content with uncomfortable laughter, gasps, and groans.

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

Solet said, “I am continually delighted by how well the film plays with an audience. After years of working to tune every beat to ring emotionally true, there’s nothing more magical than realizing you’re reaching an audience as you had hoped. The way a whole room can squirm, the uncomfortable laughter, the screams, it’s just so beautiful to watch it all come together.

Following the screening, the creative forces of Grace came together for a Q&A hosted by USC’s Alex Ago. Solet was joined on stage by actress Jordan Ladd, producer Adam Green, production designer Martina Buckley, cinematographer Zoran Popovic, and composer Austin Wintory.

This was the first time this particular group had all been together for a Q&A,” Solet explained, “so it was a real treat to relive the joy of making the film through their stories – to be reminded once again of all the passion and joy that went into the film was really invigorating.

While a lot of the Q&A was designed for the film students on hand, there were some great moments for the rest of the audience including a surprise presentation for Solet, who was celebrating his 30th birthday the following day. The Horror Chick, along with Wintory, decided that it was an event worth sharing with those in attendance.

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

At the start Solet was presented with his very own baby carriage. Inside was the original “Grace” from Solet’s short film, who was decked out with her own Grace movie t-shirt and baby bottle filled with “blood” (or Jelly Bellies if you want to be more specific).

The reason for the baby carriage presentation was to mark Solet’s long journey with the story of Grace. A few years back Solet was famous for hitting the convention and festival circuits carrying little “Grace” around in a Baby Bjorn, and those of us who were fortunate to have seen or heard of his journey thought it was time his “baby” rode in style.

During the Q&A Solet also divulged to fans that his short film would be included on the DVD release of the Grace feature film. However, there’s still no word on when fans can expect Anchor Bay to deliver Grace into theaters, but I am still keeping my fingers crossed that word comes soon.

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

While most of the Grace screening was pretty standard, apparently the film’s unnerving content is still wreaking havoc on viewers. Wintory forwarded to me the following email from a friend of his who was in attendance at Friday’s Grace screening (the name is being withheld per the request of Grace’s poor victim).

I also wanted to congratulate you on the fantastic score for “Grace” – I didn’t see the whole movie (we’ll get to that), but what I heard was really haunting and perfect for the film.

Like I said, I didn’t see the whole thing. This is because I, horror film aficionado and splatterpunk enthusiast, was defeated by “Grace.” I got up to get some air because the movie was getting to me.

I went to the bathroom to splash water on my face and next thing I know I am on the floor. I walked home (I live next to campus) and a friend drove me to the ER, where I got patched up.

I don’t know what it was about the movie, it just managed to find that queasy chord inside my brain and struck hard. I couldn’t convince my brain that it was just a movie. I have a thing about blood in a realistic context – I can handle buckets of gore, no problem.

But little things, like drawing blood or – in this movie’s case – the scene where the main character is stabbing the dead doctor’s arm with tiny scissors to fill the baby bottle, that’s my weakness. I thought I could handle it, but… they crafted a damn fine film, and it works. I’m kind of sorry I didn’t see the end, but maybe it’s for the best. Or maybe I’ll wait for the DVD so I can watch it on a tiny screen with crappy sound and dilute the effect that way.

At any rate, now they can add to the legend of the movie – it made someone pass out and go to the hospital.

Solet himself considers the screening (barring the body count) another successful step on this journey he’s been on with Grace over the last several years.

Every time we screen you can feel the excitement growing,” said Solet. “Real horror fans aren’t letting people get away with the usual negativity you see cropping up around films when they receive nothing but positive buzz for so long. With Grace, everyone has been so grateful and excited to see something made for them, by people like them, and made with real care, that they’re calling bullshit on haters. It’s a joy to see how much power horror fans really have when they unite around something they love instead of wasting time criticizing movies that missed the mark,” Solet added.

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

Event Report: Grace Screening at USC (click for larger image)

Heather Wixson

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