Details: (MA15+), 82 mins, United States, English
Synopsis: While eight months pregnant, Madeline's (Jordan Ladd) dream turns into a nightmare when a horrific car accident leaves her unborn baby lifeless inside her. The mother refuses to believe her baby Grace is dead and is determined to bring her to term. By either a miracle or something more evil, the stillborn baby is delivered alive, but gradually the mother realises that there is something wrong with her baby.
Motherhood as horror show.
Paul Solet’s Grace will play like the filmic equivalent of nails-on-a-chalkboard for any expectant parents who might think it cute to relieve some of the relentless sentimentality that goes with starting a new family; what harm could come from a B-cheesy ‘kiddie-killer’ vid-rental, right?
But be warned. The young writer-director’s entry into the ‘demon-child’ genre – popularised by such shockers as Roman Polanski’s Rosemary's Baby (1968), Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974) and David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979) – is a polished, well-crafted debut that features some seriously sick spins on the joys of new motherhood. Solet was mentored by Mr. Nasty himself, Eli Roth – the man behind the terrific Cabin Fever (2002) and the horrible Hostel films (2005 and 2007) – and he pulls no punches in his own dark take on babyhood bliss.
From its key-art image (a grimy baby bottle half filled with blood, a fly lapping at the rubber teat) to its final unforgettable reveal, Solet’s wicked slice of Suburban Gothic horror taps into some of humankind’s most potent iconography and exploits that imagery mercilessly. It is near impossible not to react on a gut level to scenes depicting a heavily-pregnant woman involved in a car accident, or the bloody, underwater birth of a still-born child, and detractors will say Solet has taken the easy route. The universality of the fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth dictate that even the slightest negative spin on these events will get a response from all but the most detached viewer.
As Madeline, the picture-perfect American mom-to-be, Jordan Ladd is warmly empathetic, even when called upon to perform the most horrible acts for her child. Her unborn eight-month-old, believed to be dead after the fatal accident that kills her husband (Stephen Park), suddenly regains life in what natural-birth therapist and hardcore mothers’ rights activist Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris) believes to be an acknowledgement of her techniques and beliefs. But baby Grace (alternately played by Annabel Bast and Tenai Measmer) has survived at a terrible price; soon Madeline, her possessive mother-in-law Vivian (Gabrielle Rose) and the home-calling gyno Dr. Sohn (Malcolm Stewart) will come to understand just how demanding Grace’s needs truly are.
There’s mordant humour to be found in the best of Solet’s screenplay – shots at veganism and such new-age indulgences as mothers’ group hot tub births are underplayed but effective; one bedroom scene involving Vivian and her down-trodden husband, in which she incites foreplay only so that she may be reminded of the experience of suckling, is both icky and funny.
Frustratingly, there is a conventionality in the third act that undermines the unnerving, boundary-pushing body of the film. The best parts of the movie involve Madeline’s dawning realisation of her child’s true nature within the disorienting solitude of her suburban home; when the film becomes more about her efforts to feed the bub, it’s a little too reminiscent of Seymour and Audrey’s predicament in Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors (1986).
Regardless, it is still a no-go prospect for soon-to-be mums and dads. If the pandering of relatives and marketeers becomes so incessant that the overwhelming niceness of your impending parenthood needs to be brought down a few notches... well, rent the Look Who’s Talking trilogy instead.
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