The much-lauded indie horror movie about a motherhood nightmare has gotten a lot of attention as of late. Some critics have called it the greatest and most disturbing horror film of the new millennium. I went far out of my way to check it out based on the enigmatic reviews and praise.
Madeline (Jordan Ladd), a vegan and new-age nut, desperately wishes to conceive a child with her husband (Steven Park) after 2 previous miscarriages. Her doctor/midwife – and secret former lesbian lover – Dr. Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris) promises to help her through her past difficulties to make sure this third child is born without a hitch. When Madeline loses her husband and the baby in a car crash, she’s determined to bring the dead child to term and follow through with the birth. Against everyone’s better judgement, Madeline gives birth and in her inconsolable sadness, somehow wills the dead child back to life. However, something is wrong with baby Grace. She attracts flies, smells like decay and rejects her mother’s breast milk. Madeline soon discovers that Grace needs her mother’s blood to live. As Madeline feeds and isolates Grace from others, her overbearing and ruthless mother-in-law (Gabrielle Rose) hatches a plan to steal Grace away from her.
A Rosemary’s Baby for the 00’s, Grace may be slow and boring in places but it squarely delivers a 9.5 on the “ick” scale. Even before the dead baby comes into play, the film puts you at unease with a quiet sense of foreboding dread. We know things aren’t going to go well with the pregnancy or birth, but the dark tone, the scenes of motherly anguish and the gross out moments are so seriously executed, they break taboos. Without these elements, the painfully slow film would’ve been sunk by predictability and its lack of likable characters.
I was about to outright dismiss the film until the final moment revealed one of the most horrifyingly shocking twists that my stomach came close to revolting. I respect the potent horror of the ending so much, I have to reluctantly recommend this film to horror fans. Fans of “baby horror” might consider this a holy grail movie. It’s not a cheesy, killer baby movie like It’s Alive! Grace does not attack anyone. It’s just that her relationship with her mother is selfish and mutually destructive.
I’ve thought about the messages/themes this film tries to convey. It might be about how dependant children bleed their parents dry or how a mother’s devotion is the strongest human instinct. Perhaps its both or that these two instincts can lead to horror under desperate circumstances. Whatever the intention, it gives you a lot to think about, despite the predictability.
Personally, I can’t see myself viewing this film again. Not because of the ickiness of it or because it was too extreme, but because it would bore me. The only thing that genuinely grabbed me was the morbid shock ending (which was kind of a cheap thrill, albeit a really good one). No, I think there are far better films in this sub-genre. The first one that comes to mind is the harrowing and ten-times more disturbing French baby horror film Inside (À L’INTÉRIEUR).
Some might say the two aren’t comparable, but I disagree. Not only does Inside (5 out of 5 stars) show more nerve and violence, it’s got a far more disturbing message and twist. Grace is a slower burn and a tad more high-brow while Inside is more exploitative and raw intensity from beginning to end. I suppose it’s my personal taste, but Grace simply couldn’t grip me throughout like Inside.
I’m not going to make it required viewing unless Rosemary’s Baby is one of your favorites. Perhaps it will grow on me (no pun intended), but I kinda doubt it considering slow is not my favorite pace… unless the film is made by David Cronenberg. Ah, Cronenberg… I can imagine how amazingly upsetting and masterful this film would’ve been in his hands.
I’m already done with baby horror, though. And creepy children. And vampires (although New Moon and Daybreakers both look like harmless fun). Patiently waiting for the next big thing. Waiting… Waiting…
Trailer for Grace…
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