GraceA good film exploring the horrors of motherhood that compares favorably with classics like ROSEMARY’S BABY, BABY BLOOD and INSIDE. It is a little thin, however!

GRACE began life as 2006 short written and directed by Paul Solet and starring Liza Weil and Brian Austin Green. This 2008 feature version came about largely due to HATCHET director Adam Green, who had a multi-picture deal with Anchor Bay Entertainment and chose GRACE as one of those pictures.

The film ended up filmed in Saskatchewan, Canada, with Jordan Ladd (of CABIN FEVER, GRINDHOUSE and many other films) in the lead role. It premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, where it reportedly caused a couple patrons to faint and garnered enthusiastic reviews from seemingly everyone. I don’t entirely agree with all the praise, but it is a damn good movie for the most part.

Madeleine is eight months pregnant and opts for a midwife to deliver her baby. Her choice is controversial, but before much argument can be made a horrific car accident ends the life of Madeleine’s husband, and also the child within her.

Madeleine decides to deliver the dead fetus naturally. She births the corpse, and in the process Madeleine somehow wills the baby girl, who she names Grace, back to life.

This seems a good thing, but the child attracts flies. Grace also has a bad habit of chewing on Madeleine’s nipples and sucking the blood. Madeleine tries to pacify Grace by draining the blood from some raw steak, but it seems Grace only likes human blood.

Madeleine continues letting Grace drink her blood, but then a unique opportunity presents itself in the form of a pesky social worker hired by Madeleine’s midwife to investigate her. Madeleine kills the guy and drains his blood for the thirsty Grace to imbibe. But this is easier said than done, and anyway, more people are on their way to Madeleine’s house as she works on the blood-draining. It seems another murder is imminent, if not several…

What’s surprising about GRACE is how artfully crafted it is. It’s everything a film like GRACE producer Adam Green’s HATCHET isn’t: quiet, subtle and character based, and buoyed by a terrifically sympathetic lead performance by Jordan Ladd. It’s also quite gripping in spots, particularly the intense stillbirth and suspenseful climax, which makes excellent use of a bloody baby bottle and an intercom.

However, be advised the passing out that supposedly occurred in the Sundance screening seems excessive—the film is simply not especially shocking (my vote for the most off-putting sequence is a mid-film sex scene between a middle aged couple—although even that isn’t shocking, just gross). Paul Solet, in any event, demonstrates admirable skill and confidence in this, his first feature. In some ways it’s one of the better genre debuts of recent years.

Of course the film, in common with most features adapted from shorts, is quite thin. The narrative is disappointingly scant and predictable, and ends on an unresolved note. GRACE, in other words, is quite impressive in most respects, but just needs…more.

Vital Statistics

Indigomotion/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Director: Paul Solet
Producers: Ingo Vollkammer, Cory Neal, Adam Green, Kevin Dewalt
Screenplay: Paul Solet
Cinematography: Zoran Popovic
Editing: John Coniglio, Darrin Navarro
Cast: Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose, Stephen Park, Serge Houde, Samantha Ferris, Kate Herriot, Tenai Cam Measmer, Annabel Kathlynn Bast