The Movie Waffler 1001 Overlooked Movies - <i>Grace</i> (2009) | The Movie Waffler

1001 Overlooked Movies - Grace (2009)

After two miscarriages, a young mother finally gives birth, but her progeny is not what it seems.

Directed by: Paul Solet
Starring: Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose

What would you do if your child was a monster? Not a toddler experiencing the terrible twos, or a new-born that simply refuses to sleep; but an actual supernatural monster?
It’s a question familiar to horror audiences: Rosemary’s Baby is still the ‘demon baby’ subgenre’s most iconic entry, but fans also retain affection for cult classics such as It’s Alive and The Brood. Furthermore, tokophobia is exploited in films as diverse as Alien and Orphan. It isn’t difficult to see why: pregnancy is fraught with fear as it is, involving the surrender of your body and life to a tiny, angry and gooey stranger. Nonetheless, it takes a film-maker of a certain capacity and maturity to do the topic justice, as recent misfire Devil’s Due demonstrates. 2009’s Grace is a worthy addition to the subgenre however, and will leave you wondering, probably late at night, when the last time a horror film really got under your skin was.
Jordan Ladd plays Madeline, a young mother who is finally pregnant after two miscarriages. Married to Michael, her anxiety concerning her pregnancy is compounded by her husband’s domineering mother Vivian, who criticises Madeline’s choice of obstetrician (old friend Patricia) and even her diet. Tragedy strikes when, returning from the hospital to check on severe stomach cramps, Madeline loses both the unborn child and her husband in a freak car accident.
Or does she? Devastated, Madeline is determined to see the pregnancy to term. Grace is stillborn, but is seemingly nursed (‘willed’) back to life by Madeline.
What follows is a creepy exercise in claustrophobic body horror. Gradually, we discover that Grace has a taste for bodily fluids apart from breast milk and formula, and we follow Madeline’s bloody sacrifices and creeping revulsion as she honours her role as mother. Grace isn’t a film with surprise jumps or especially shocking moments; it’s more a movie that slowly unnerves, demanding that you empathise with Madeline’s struggle. The film constructs a palpable sense of dread with moments that are all the more disquieting for their understatement: pink drops of blood upon breast pads, the hungry sigh from a baby monitor; subtleties that conspire towards the oppressive sense of isolation. Solet draws us in to the film’s foreboding world with grim elegance: the bright blues and yellows of an expectant family’s home curdle to the pallor of soured milk as all hope drains, and the unsettling soundtrack of flies fizzing about the crib is an irritating constant.
In what is essentially a one woman show, Ladd is especially good. Side-lined as the pretty girl in Cabin Fever and Death Proof, here she is the emotional core of the movie; her eyes becoming more desperately hollow as the film crawls to its bloody climax. Midway through the film, there is a scene where, standing in the dark, Madeline watches over the sleeping and recently fed Grace; in a static time lapse shot, dawn’s light progressively reveals Madeline’s night gown, stained rusty with her own blood. Solet, aided by cinematographer Zoran Popvic, really has an eye for these sort of haunting details, and it’s a shame that half a decade on, his CV has only stretched to acting roles in his mates’ films.
The film isn’t without its flaws. Madeline’s mother in law, played with pantomimic zeal by Gabriel Rose, is introduced as an antagonist of sorts, but doesn’t really do all that much, and her presence in the narrative almost detracts from the grim sense of seclusion. However, this is a minor hiccup in what is a very original horror; an ominous meditation on the duty of parents, and the all-consuming nature of their progeny.
Highly recommended. Unless you are actually expecting; in which case, babysit this one out.