Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grace (2009)

Fear 4/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 5/5

There was (and continues to be) so much buzz around this film that I've been waiting with mucho anticipation for it to be released on DVD (thank you Anchor Bay!). You see, I had tickets to the premiere at the Dallas American Film Institute (AFI) Festival back in March of this year. But my body's immune system had other plans and I got terribly sick and was unable to attend. The hoopla surrounding the film continued to build after subsequent premieres which increased my burning desire to see it. So was it worth the painstakingly 'long' wait? Read on.

Before the opening credits, the film begins with a husband jackhammering away on his wife and she is visibly not interested in the boom boom sexing that is going on. After the deed, as she lies on her back, the wife bends her legs and brings them in towards her stomach, attempting to increase her chances of conception. After the opening credits, we see the now pregnant wife at a dinner table with her husband and his extremely neurotic and overbearing mother. Its revealed that the wife is a hardcore vegan and that she's disenchanted with modern medicine. Instead of a traditional doctor and hospital, she convinces her husband that hiring a midwife is the way to go. In total disagreement, the mother-in-law suggests that they consult the family doctor but the wife strongly refuses.

After dinner one night, the wife begins experiencing severe chest pains and the husband rushes her to the ER. Upon arrival, we find the family doctor the mother-in-law suggested waiting. He quickly diagnoses her and says they need to induce ASAP, despite the fact that she is only 18 weeks pregnant. The husband calls the midwife and she arrives before the baby is extracted. She demands to see the chart and quickly reviews her vitals. She re-diagnoses the pain as gall stones, and when its confirmed after scanning the aforementioned chart, she saves the baby from unnecessary extraction.

Driving home from the hospital, the husband and wife are nearly run off the road by a crazed motorist. The car emits a hissing noise after the husband swerves and recorrects on the winding road. The airbag unexpectedly deploys which causes the husband to lose control of the vehicle and it careens and slams into a tree off the side of the road. Authorities arrive on the scene to find the husband slumped over and expired. As they round past the driver's side, they come upon the wife who's sitting near the base of the tree. She proclaims that the baby isn't moving as a stream of blood flows from her groin area.

Recovering from her injuries at the home of the midwife, she insists on carrying the baby to term despite that its obvious to all that its dead. She soon leaves the midwife's care, continuing with her preparations for the arrival of her baby and goes shopping for clothes. When normally the water breaking would signal the message that its baby go-time, a gush of blood spews forth instead. She passes out, waking up again at the midwife's home in a shallow delivery pool. She gives birth and as she holds the fetus in her arms, she call's her her saing Grace. The midwife insists that the baby can not be willed back to life but the singularly minded mother believes otherwise. Literally coaxing the baby to life, the elated new mom leaves the midwife's care once again.

Settling in at home, the now glowing mother carries on as though nothing out of the ordinary happened, expecting to care for a normal and healthy newborn. Her world soon unravels as we find out that something is not quite right with Grace: flies like to encircle her room, the family cat is acting strange, and even more telling, she spits up her mothers milk while feeding. When she doesn't get what she needs, Grace digs in and takes a bite out of mommy's ta tas, preferring blood for sustenance over milk. The mother eventually becomes anemic after so many feedings, opting for the meat counter at her local supermarket. Grace regurgitates the drainings and mom returns to using her blood supply as her baby's main nutritional intake.

Her overbearing mom presistently rears her ugly head when she learns that her daughter in-law actually has a living, breathing baby. When attempts are ignored for her to come over and see her new grandaughter, she takes matters into her own hands. She has the family doctor show up at the house to check on mother and baby. After the doctor checks out mom and deems her horribly anemic and in need of serious medical attention, he hears the groans of the baby through a monitor in the kitchen and he promptly heads upstairs. Mom heads him off at the pass, striking him over the head and he crashes hard into a desk in the hallway and lands with a resounding thud. Presumably dead, she drags him into the bathroom and proceeds to drain his blood into a bottle. Mom soon arrives on the scene and attempts to forcefully take Grace. Her efforts are thwarted, and both mother and daughter die in their ensuing struggle. As the film ends, Grace comes into the care of another and we find out that she has moved on from blood as her main intake to something else entirely.....

Overall, the adult characters provide the more disturbing moments throughout the film. True, the delivery of a stillborn baby, its resurrection and need to constantly feed on human blood to survive is inherently disturbing. But its those characters that are far more disturbing than the images of a blood sucking infant. The overbearing, neurotic mother-in-law that plots an eventual kidnapping of her grandaugther (she even uses a breast pump and the mouth of her subservient husband to keep her breasts stimulated in preparation for taking over care). The midwife who actually lets the stubborn mother carry the baby to term and by film's end, you get a sense that maybe she had an ulterior motive all along. And finally, we have the mother of Grace. So singular in her focus that not once does she ever mourn the passing of her husband. Despite all reason and logic, she brings the 'dead' baby to term, continuing to modify her life for the needs of her child, no matter what the cost, including the possibility of her own life.

A true horror film in every sense, Grace is an incredible film and achievement for first time feature film director Paul Solet. Despite some plot holes (after the mother passes out at the store, she wakes up at the midwife's house; how did someone know to call her and not 911?), Grace does brilliantly well where other horror movies fail. Namely, successfully turning the focus off the focal point (Grace) and instead, re-directing it to the downright despicable characters that surround her. By film's end, you actually empathize with Grace and her condition and start to feel sorry that she lives in a world of people that need some serious medical help. Where some reviews devote more column space to the horror of seeing a blood sucking baby, I'll go on record as saying that its the characters onscreen that provide the brunt of the horrifying movie watching experience that is Grace.

Cortez the Killer

No comments: