Reviewed by Heather Wixson
Starring Jordan Ladd, Stephen Park, Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris, Malcolm Stewart
Directed by Paul Solet
Grace is not your typical horror film. In fact, it would be hard to even classify it under the category of pure horror. The best way that I could define Grace is by saying it's like Ordinary People meets The Ice Storm meets Rosemary's Baby. I think the fact that it defies any one label is a credit to the genius behind the craftsmanship of the movie.
This past weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, I finally had my chance to see if Grace would truly live up to the expectations I had for it. I'm happy to say it absolutely delivered (pun completely intended).
Grace tells the story of Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd, Cabin Fever) whose focus in life is on having both a natural lifestyle and, more importantly, a natural childbirth. She does her best to ignore the increasing pressure put on her by her controlling mother-in-law Vivian (Gabrielle Rose, The Sweet Hereafter) for a normal hospital delivery as she prepares for the big day when baby Grace will arrive.
Madeline’s husband Michael (Stephen Park, Slither) does his best to remain supportive of her choices while conflicted by his close relationship with his mother. All is going as well as can be until a tragic car accident leaves Michael dead and an unborn baby Grace unresponsive. Madeline, however, remains determined to carry Grace to term nonetheless, where she miraculously wills her child back to life. Over time, Madeline soon begins to realize that there is something unnatural about baby Grace, and she is forced to make horrible sacrifices of herself and others just to keep her alive.
Grace is director Paul Solet’s debut feature film, which he also wrote the script for. Based on his 2006 short film of the same name, the full-length film version is a complete departure from the surrealistic and gut-punch approach that garnered the attention of genre fans and those working in the horror industry alike.
This time Solet delivers the story of Grace with a directorial precision and quiet restraint that demonstrates skill beyond his years and makes it hard to believe that this is just the start of his career. His ability to handle such intricate subject matter like the mother-child bond displays Solet’s maturity in crafting a complex script.
Solet also doesn’t follow recent genre trends by slapping audiences around with “in your face” type of horror; rather, he relies on a strong character-driven dramatic approach that leaves viewers unnerved and tense as the film builds to terrifying heights during the final act.
Ladd’s performance as Madeline is revelatory as she plays a mother’s descent into seclusion as she becomes more and more unraveled with the knowledge that her miracle baby is less than perfect with delicate passion.
Rose’s performance as Vivian, who has some very deep-seated character flaws to say the very least, brims with a self-possessed ferocity as she struggles with the loss of her son and her inability to see her granddaughter and keep control over the situation due to Madeline’s descent into recluse.
Grace works on a lot of different levels; it can be accessible to both genre fans as well as those who generally shy away from horror. However, for those of you who seek loud, slasher-type films, this may not be your cup of tea. While the movie may not be straight-up horror, there are quite a few moments that can leave viewers both anxious and squeamish. The last twenty minutes alone are relentless enough to keep you breathless in your seat.
Grace is very much the antidote to what plagues most of the horror genre today. For those who are tired of the endless remakes and reincarnations of overseas films, Grace very well could be the movie you need to see to restore your faith in the idea that there is still an artistic vision within the horror genre. I know it has restored mine.
4 1/2 out of 5
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