Grace (2009)
By: Rip on March 17, 2011  | 
Madman | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 81 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Paul Solet
Starring: Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose, Stephen Park, Serge Houde
Screenplay: Paul Solet
Country: USA
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After several previous miscarriages, Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) and husband Michael (Stephen Park) are finally expecting their first child. Much to the distaste of her mother-in-law, Vivian (Gabrielle Rose), Madeline is a vigilant vegan and is planning on a mid-wife guided birth. But when she is involved in a car accident that kills her husband and presumably ends her pregnancy, Madeline seeks refuge at the spa of her midwife Patricia (Samantha Ferris), completely obsessed with delivering her child nonetheless. Madeline cannot accept that her baby Grace is dead and is thoroughly determined to bring her to term. But then, by either a miracle or something more bizarre, the stillborn baby is delivered alive. Gradually, Madeline comes to realize that there is something wrong with baby Grace, especially when she develops a very unusual appetite...

Based on his own previous short film entry at Sundance, writer/director Paul Solet's debut feature is a rather potent one. Horror is at its most effective when grounded in the reality of the everyday person and Solet's take on the sensitive issues of childbirth and rearing is a brave one, especially given that it's coming from the male perspective. He confidently grabs these issues by the throat and twists them in to every parent's worst nightmare. Whilst he readily admits to influences by the likes of Polanski and Cronenberg, Solet still manages to craft a polished, highly effective film of his own. The universal fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth will get a response out of anyone and this flick is definitely a 'no-go' for expecting parents.

Now, this all sounds very grim, but there's a welcome injection of dark humour to be found in the screenplay, especially in the many sly shots aimed at veganism and the whole 'New Age' indulgence. Unfortunately, there is somewhat of a conventionality that comes in the third act, though horror hounds will probably love these moments regardless and, if anything, they're certainly very well executed. But Grace works best in the first three quarters which involve Madeline's gradual realization of her baby's true nature. Most of this takes place in the scary solitude of her own suburban home and is made even more unnerving by the many discoveries she begins to make, such as when baby Grace begins to lose hair and emit a foul odour that attracts hordes of flies. It's disturbing stuff and I don't wish to tell you any more for fear of spoiling it all. I honestly hadn't felt this uncomfortable watching a movie in quite some time.

Jordan Ladd (daughter of one time Charlie's Angel, Cheryl Ladd) is terrific and especially empathetic in the first half of the film as the all-American mum-to-be. As pretty as her real life mother, she's also unafraid to look bad and perform the icky stuff in the second half when she begins her descent in to hell. It's a tough role and it's her film all the way. Gabrielle Rose is excellent as the condescending mother-in-law, Vivian, and she really does do a good job at getting the audience to dislike her. She also is called upon to partake in some particularly difficult moments and goes at it all with great gusto, painting her character as quite a piece of work. Samantha Ferris is also particularly noteworthy as Madeline's midwife, Patricia, a character who harbours quite an interesting secret that comes to light during the course of the film. All supporting players are good, but the movie really centres around the three female leads and is probably the better for it.

Grace is also a very nicely shot movie that features some often interesting photographic choices. As the character of Madeline begins to lose her grip in the solitude of her home, she is often framed with a blurring effect around her which is quite disorientating. The whole film has an all pervading air of menace about it that is simultaneously tempered by a quiet melancholy and ably supported by an appropriately eerie score by Austin Wintory. Director Paul Solet could be a talent to watch out for and his debut here is one that deserves to be seen.

Framed at 2:35 with 16x9 enhancement, Madman's transfer is very good, without being remarkable. Whilst there are no major transfer issues to report, there is an overall softness to the picture, which well may be as a result of the low budget source material, but I have a feeling it may be intentional.
Both a 5.1 and DTS surround tracks are available, and while a dialogue-based film, the suitably creepy soundtrack comes off well. English subtitles are included for the hard of hearing.
Extra Features
For a single disc release, we've been given a nice bunch of featurettes. Aside from a couple of trailers for other cool Madman titles, we get...

Grace - Conception:  Running at nearly 7 minutes, the film's writer/director Paul Solet gives an overview of how his film came about and the task of bringing it to the screen.

Grace - Family:  This one runs for around 12 minutes and takes a look at the film's characters, with some interesting contributions from the cast.

Her Mother's Eyes - The Look Of Grace:  As this featurette's title suggests, we get an analysis of the visuals, including input from the film's cinematographer. Runtime is 7 minutes.

Grace - Delivered:  Here we get to the meat of things, with a 37 minute making-of.

Lullaby - Scoring Grace:  Running for 9 minutes, this is an interview with the film's composer who discusses the film's eerie soundtrack and the importance of sound in cinema.

Grace At Sundance:  Takes a look at the movie's reception during the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Running at around 13 minutes, we get to hear from the two audience members who found it all a bit hard to take. Decide for yourself!

Grace - Theatrical Trailer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Without actually seeing it for one's self, it would be easy to write off Grace as just another 'evil child' flick, and whilst it has obviously taken inspiration from movies like Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, or even It's Alive, the film stands on its own as a strong character-based piece. The final half hour or so may move in to familiar territory, but it's done well, and Grace finally emerges as a welcome breath of fresh hair to the horror genre.

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