You don’t have to look very far in the horror genre to find a film that involves an evil baby. Hell, it’s practically it’s own sub-genre within the horror genre itself, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that comes close to the wicked new twist that the film Grace puts on these films.
While most of these films deal with an evil baby and people trying to stop the evil tot, Grace looks at it from a different vantage point: the mother. See, Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) has been desperately trying to have a baby with her husband Michael (Stephen Park) for awhile now and the couple has had the rare misfortune of having two miscarriages in a row. Apparently believing in the old maxim that three times is a charm, they try again and things are going much better with Madeline seven and a half months pregnant. Still, jaded by their past experience with traditional medicine, Madeline ultimately convinces Michael to use a midwife from an alternative birthing center, Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris), Madeline’s former college professor and, reading between the lines, much much more. But, alas, tragedy strikes again when a freak car accident takes the lives of both Michael and Madeline’s unborn child. Despite her child’s death so close to inception, Madeline opts to carry the child to term and deliver naturally (which apparently isn’t so uncommon) and Madeline finally gets to hold her child, even though she’s dead. Instinctively, she starts caressing the dead baby and even puts the child’s lips to her breast to feed it… when the child starts nursing, alive, the pigment returning in her skin. A miracle… and that’s when the s&^t REALLY hits the fan. Madeline realizes that the child is really after her blood and, as Madeline’s health starts to dwindle, with her midwife and mother-in-law (Gabrielle Rose) concerned (for MUCH different reasons), Madeline has to decide how far she is willing to go to keep her little “miracle.”
Writer-director Paul Solet, making his feature film debut, certainly has given cause that he is a filmmaker to surely keep an eye on. A protégé of shockmeister Eli Roth, Solet has crafted a touching yet sickening tale of a mother’s love, which he even parallels nicely with Gabrielle Rose’s mother-in-law character, who still keeps her son’s childhood room intact and displays bizarre bedroom behavior with her husband. Solet sets up this tale perfectly, showing Madeline’s desperation to be a mother, which ultimately explains why she does what she does when it starts to get crazy. He does a wonderful job in conveying this mood and air of solitude with an effectively minimalist score by Austin Wintory and a wonderfully dreary look to the film, especially in Madeline’s house, which is where most of the film takes place. Solet’s direction is rather effective, but his tone can be a bit convoluted at times as you’re not really sure if certain things are intended for humor or not, as we get really no cues from Wintory’s score. I wasn’t a big fan of the very end either, but I will say that if Solet has accomplished nothing else, he’s effectively created a film where you DON’T want to see the amazing assets of lead actress Jordan Ladd… especially at the end. I don’t ever think I’ve winced or looked away at the sight of breasts like hers more than I have in any other film. Thanks…
The film is essentially Jordan Ladd’s show and the horror starlet (who said she wanted to stray from the genre before discovering this) turns in a knockout performance. Ladd’s turn as Madeline Matheson really brings you into the desire of this mother to keep her child, and all else be damned, a performance that is quite compelling and dramatic set against this moody horror landscape. If Ladd still wants to get out of the genre now, I think she’ll have ample chance to do so after people see her performance here, because it was quite a wonderful turn that shows she has a future outside of genre filmmaking. While this is certainly a showcase for Ladd, Gabrielle Rose turns in a fine performance as the rather demented mother-in-law Vivian Matheson and Patricia Lang does a decent job as Samantha Ferris, Madeline’s midwife, and I liked how Solet really kept things simple with the characters, with just enough backstory to keep you intrigued.
Grace is a fine horror film that shows us the lengths people go to for the things they want, as unnatural as they may be. It’s a chilling piece of work that does for child birth what Jaws did for the ocean, and showcases the talents of Jordan Ladd and filmmaker Paul Solet.