Monday, October 19, 2009

October Horror-thon #19: "Grace" (2009)

The Mathesons, Madeline (Jordan Ladd) and Michael (Stephen Park), are one of many countless couples looking forward to bringing a bundle of joy into the world. But tragedy strikes their fledgling family after a car accident claims Michael's life, as well as her unborn daughter's. Madeline chooses to carry her child to term regardless, whereupon little Grace is found to be alive and well -- at first. After a while, Grace begins adopting some peculiar traits, from losing her hair to attracting an alarming amount of flies. It's not until the wee one starts developing a taste for blood that Madeline realizes she has a little monster on her hands, putting the bonds of parenthood to the ultimate test.

Finally, after years of false starts and broken promises, we have a creepy kid movie worth getting riled up over. It's one thing to have cinematic bad seeds fully away of their homicidal tendencies, but what do you say when one is just doing what comes naturally? Grace poses a much more creepy query than something like The Children because it's dealing with a more profound deck. Of course, it's hard to picture your offspring as evil no matter what their age, but it's during infancy that the premise really strikes a chord. It's here that Grace trades in a B-movie mentality (which Larry Cohen fans will be sad to bid adieu) in favor of thought-provoking themes only a horror film could execute correctly.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the film is realistic (if my tyke started gnawing on flesh, I'd dash to a hospital no matter how committed a new-agey type I was), but Grace does deal with its subject matter in a way both intriguing and very unsettling. It's part character study and part exploitation flick, with the former's commitment to emotions keeping the latter's shocks restrained (and all the more effective). It's also fitting that there's no "good vs. evil" scenario forced into the story; Madeline's controlling mother-in-law (Gabrielle Rose) knows something's amiss with Grace, but she wants the baby for reasons that would be a field day for Freud. There's just one whacked-out situation and how the characters react to it, a match made in hell as disturbing as it is oddly touching.

Rather than try to jolt you with gore-laden shocks alone, Grace is sly enough to work some actual characterizations into the mix. The drama isn't as consistent as it could be, but writer/director Paul Solet's efforts here do show what happens when the genre is elevated beyond mere mindless violence. A sure-fire method of birth control, Grace is the rare sort of horror flick that really hits the heart.

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