From Rosemary's Baby to It's Alive, from Inside to Born… the bad baby isn't anything new in horror films, but it is a bloody basinet rarely explored. (Grace is, however, the second movie I've seen in a week showing a fly crawling up someone's nose. Always a crowd-pleaser!)
Grace, written and directed by apparent paedophobia-sufferer Paul Solet, takes a more organic approach to the terrible infant idea, in that there is no devil worship at work, no crazed French folks, and no ancient curse. Instead, the hows and whys are left to personal interpretation as we watch New Age earth mama Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) deal with her decision to carry her suddenly dead fetus to "term" and let it be born in the traditional way. Tiny Grace may be stillborn, but she doesn't stay that way for long — as she stirs to life, the miracle of birth takes on a whole new meaning.
Widowed after the car crash that killed her husband and caused Grace's in-utero injuries, Madeline becomes a nervous, homebound wreck. All she cares about is making sure that no harm comes to her inexplicably bloodthirsty baby. Chief among Madeline's concerns is keeping the suspiciously rotting tot from prying eyes: That means no visits from the midwife (Samantha Ferris), definitely no doctor (Malcolm Stewart), and her frantic mother-in-law (Gabrielle Rose) is totally out of the equation. But needless to say, one-by-one each of these concerned persons comes a'knocking, and they definitely do not like what they see once they get inside Madeline's crib.
While it's formula for a horror film to be populated with well-endowed leads, what happens to the babes' busts in this movie is sure to be Russ Meyer's worst nightmare (and I bet Takashi Miike is plotting an out-do to "nip" Solet in the bud before his next movie). Aside from bloody breasts, curdled mother's milk, clotted goo and baby spit-up from hell, Grace offers a lot of good, old-fashioned, frill-free tension and suspense.
These emotional elements are augmented greatly due to beautifully composed, lavish cinematography and a taut, well-placed score. Composer Austin Wintory knows when to keep quiet and when to ramp it up, while DP Zoran Popovic makes the movie pretty without ostentation — along with Solet's direction and Ladd's admirable conveyance of isolation and paranoia, tonally Grace feels like something an indie Bergman or Polanski might have done.
That said, there are definitely a few lapses of logic in Grace, it drags here and there, and some of the messaging is a bit heavy-handed; but overall it's a very effective, creepy, intense, well-done movie — especially impressive as a debut calling card for the developing director.
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