Well, it’s now the end of March, and I still feel confident that “Grace” will be the best horror film to come out this year. Because what is more terrifying, vile, and disgusting than childbirth?
After losing two babies to miscarriages, Madeline has become an ultra cautious mother. Doing all the research, she settles on water birth with the assistance of a midwife. Complications arise when Madeline is in a car accident and the baby dies, yet she insists on going forward with the birth as her way of dealing with the loss. Left alone with her dead baby, Madeline seemingly wills the child back to life, naming her Grace. Seemingly healthy at first, the baby starts to lose her hair and attracting flies. More disturbing still, the baby develops a monstrous appetite and Madeline soon discovers just how far she’ll go for her baby.
Let’s not sugarcoat it: this movie is f****d up. Written and directed by Paul Solet (whose mentor, Eli Roth, claimed that Solet’s work “makes ‘Cabin Fever’ look like a Disney movie”), “Grace” crosses our taboo lines over and over again. As we are under the general (mis)conception that babies are a blessing sent from God, “Grace” violates all that is good and natural in the world. And that’s why it’s so awesome.
Like any other good B-horror flick, “Grace” doesn’t make any pretenses about being something it’s not. The acting is decent, but nothing to get excited about, and the props are sometimes lacking (they use an obviously fake baby for many scenes when a real one would have worked just fine). Instead, “Grace” offers us a pure genre film filled with the kind of discomfort that you can only laugh at/with.
Not only does it fit into the horror genre as a whole, but there is a whole mess of movies dealing with the horror of children and childbirth, specifically. “Grace” capitalizes on this idea, using an innocent baby character to unknowingly inflict pain and suffering on those around her. What is especially nice about this film is its small resistances to this specific genre. Grace, instead of being a monstrous zombie baby, appears to be perfectly normal, cute in fact. She does normal baby things, like barf and poop and eat, but when those baby things are matched up with the eerie feeling we are starting to get that this baby is not normal, they become repulsive. There is also the nice touch of Madeline being vegan – something that is a little hammered into the ground, but which emphasizes her sacrifice nicely.
Little details like these make the film a valuable contribution to the genre. Likewise, the treatment of female characters and themes, while not perfect, is welcome. Grace knows what she wants and will fight off men and mother-in-laws to get it. And despite birthing a vile, inhuman baby, she’s a fantastic mother. Madeline is willing to do anything – anything – to keep Grace happy.