“She’s special. She needs special food.”

Things are finally returning to normal at Casa Missy.  I know you’ve been dying to hear what’s up.  Well, Best Friend has officially vacated our fair city for greener pastures, and I am holed up in a place in Washington Heights.  I’m a bit disoriented, and I am bummed to have to live away from my favorite subway line, but I have managed to unpack all my DVDs.  (Yes, my priorities are in order.)  What this means for you, dear readers, is that you have a fantastic new review coming your way.

Right now.

I first saw Grace when it was originally released on DVD.  I was being avoidant, and I skipped my last class at City to sit in my office and watch it on Netflix Instant Viewing.  I was holed up in a windowless room watching it on my laptop.  (This is a surprisingly good environment for watching a horror film–especially if it’s claustrophobic… not that this one is at all.)

Jordan Ladd plays Madeline Matheson, a young, married woman desperate to have a baby.  She and her husband tried twice only to lose them before their due dates.  The couple finally succeeds at keeping Maddy pregnant, and it seems their only real struggle is going to be fighting off Michael’s overbearing mother in the process.

When Maddy decides to go to a midwife to give birth to her child, Michael (Stephen Park) is a little reticent.  This is not surprising since his mother has been pushing her gynecologist on Maddy up to this point.  She’s refused, however, and she and Michael head out to Patricia Lang’s (Samantha Ferris) clinic to see what it’s all about.

Patty and Madeline have a history, you see.  As a graduate student, Maddy was her assistant.  She still calls her a great teacher and says that she “revolutionized Women’s Studies.”  (Funny, I’ve been reading Judith Butler and Eve Sedgwick all this time.)  Michael eventually acquiesces to Maddy’s requests and agrees to have Patty as their doctor.

On the way home from the clinic, however, Maddy and Michael are in an accident.  Michael is killed immediately, but Maddy begins to hemorrhage.  When she gets to Patty’s clinic, it’s discovered that her baby is dead.  They want to induce, but Maddy won’t allow it.  She waits until she naturally delivers.  When the baby is born, Patty hands her lifeless body over to Maddy who hugs her baby and whispers, “Please stay.”  It’s a heartbreaking scene in any movie made even more so by the tone the film has set thus far.

Just as Patty is coming in to tell Maddy she can’t will her baby back to life, back to life it comes.  It begins crying and squirming, and Maddy simply says, “Grace.  Her name is Grace.”

When Maddy takes Grace home things seem normal–until she starts vomiting up all the breast milk she takes in.  Maddy is terrified for her baby, who’s begun to smell and attract flies.  She keeps trying to feed her baby breast milk, but to no avail.

One day, as Maddy is struggling to get Grace to eat something, her nipples begin to bleed–and Grace begins to eat.  Grace may be alive and well, but she can only ingest blood.  Of course, Maddy immediately adjusts to her baby’s needs, and she (a strict vegan) procures as much animal blood as she can.  But when she feeds Grace, the baby only vomits yet again.  It seems Grace can only feed on human blood.  So Maddy sets out to keep her baby alive–allowing Grace to feed off of her as much as is necessary.  But Maddy’s body can only handle so much.  What will she do to keep her baby alive?  How will she keep feeding her?

I am not kidding when I tell you that Grace is not just one of the best horror movies of the past five years, it is one of the best movies of the past five years.  Period.  Grace is, quite simply, expertly made.  Writer/Director Paul Solet made a film it’s difficult to avoid falling for.  The experience is not the music video horror of the post-Scream generation.  It’s the horror of the late seventies.  It’s all about setting a tone, and Solet does so masterfully.

His visuals are the point at which all things converge.  He’s used soft lighting and light colors to create a world where the images are never as clear as you imagine them to be–almost as if you yourself are seeing through infant eyes. (I do so love it when a director cares about every aspect of a film.)  His film is, shot by shot, absolutely deliberate and almost entirely essential.

The tones are muted throughout, leaving the only color shock to be that of the blood.  The blood is not bright like J.R. Ewing’s gun shot wound (though, I do love that).  It’s a deep, deep red–one that actually resembles the stuff as it spills out of the body.

The blood does flow copiously in Solet’s film, and it does so in a way you’d be surprised by.  This is a quiet film.  And watching a character like Maddy be pushed to the edge of sanity and willing to enact such brutal violence is upsetting to be sure.  But it’s when that violence happens that the film manages to shock us to our cores.

The sound of the film is much like the visual.  It’s quiet but destabilizing.  The sound of a heart beat runs quietly under the film’s most violent acts.  It’s not a stable heart beat.  It speeds and slows and manages to make you even more uncomfortable than witnessing a baby drinking blood from its mother’s breast.

To be truthful, I am not sure I can see enough positive things about this film.  Everyone involved has stepped up to the plate.  There is something in there about the desperate desire to be a mother, about how that corrupts people.  Watch it a few times to make your assessment.  There is also something in there about the sacrifices one must make to be a mother–leaving what you love and going to what can protect you and provide for you.  Solet’s film is meaty.  Just give it its chance to wow you.

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~ by acaseofyou12581 on September 9, 2010.

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