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Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/15/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/14/2009
If you look at any film genre, you'll know doubt see that it's cyclical and that popular movie trends come and go. No other genre is more guilty of this than horror. Every few years, we see a slew of movies within a certain sub-genre (slasher, animal amok, demonic, etc.) and then something new comes in to take its place. One such sub-genre which regenerates with less frequency is the killer baby movie. (This shouldn't be confused with killer kids movies, such as The Omen, Village of the Damned, or the recent The Orphan.) I'm not sure if it was the first killer baby movie, but 1974's It's Alive is most certainly the most famous and notorious. The crazy French film Baby Blood saw the light of day in 1990, while 1991 delivered the release of Unborn. It's been a while since we had a major release of a killer baby movie, but that all changes with Grace.
Grace introduces us to Madeline (Jordan Ladd) and Michael Matheson (Stephen Park), a couple who are expecting their first child. Michael's overbearing mother (Gabrielle Rose) (who is a judge) keeps giving them advice on how to have the baby, but Madeline has elected to see the help of a midwife, Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris). (While in college, Madeline was Patricia's teaching assistant.) Despite some scares, the pregnancy is going fine until the couple is in an auto accident which kills Michael. Madeline is told that the baby has died in utero, but she elects to carry it to term. Patricia delivers the baby, which does appear to be stillborn. But, after Madeline holds it for several moments, it suddenly comes to life. Convinced that doctors would want to study the baby, whom she's named Grace, Madeline whisks the newborn home and refuses to see anyone. She soon notices that Grace is very fussy and won't nurse properly...that is, until the baby gets a taste of blood. (I won't say how.) Madeline finds herself slowly deteriorating, as she does everything that she can to keep her baby alive.
With Grace, Writer/Director Paul Solet has brought us an interesting idea. We have a newborn, helpless baby who is some sort of vampire or zombie. (We are never told which.) I can't think of a vampire baby movie off of the top of my head and we haven't had a good zombie baby since Dead/Alive. However, the movie doesn't focus on the baby. Instead, it focuses on Madeline's spiral into madness as she does whatever she can to take care of the baby. With Michael gone and her fear of letting anyone see Grace, Madeline is all alone and isn't sure what to do. She does turn to Patricia for help, but due to a lesbian desire which Patricia has for Madeline, that avenue doesn't work. Madeline places fly-strips in Grace's room and attempts to find alternate ways to feed the baby.
Grace marks the feature film debut for Solet and it shows. For while he has conjured up a creatively sick idea for the movie, he has no idea where to go with it. Grace plays out like the world's most disappointing roller-coaster. At the outset, we have a feeling that Madeline's pregnancy won't go well, and we start going up the hill. The car-wreck represents a solid jerk on the chain pulling the roller coaster and we jump. After the baby is born, we continue to go up that hill, expecting to plummet into sheer terror at any moment...but that never happens. The movie simply levels out and we are treated to scene after scene of Madeline running around her house trying to think of what to do next. I kept thinking that the movie might have a sudden twist (like perhaps all of this is happening in Madeline's imagination), but that never happens. The movie does descend into violence at the end, but it has no impact. The last shot is certainly gross, but it won't make up for the viewer's boredom. (Grace was produced by Adam Green, who made the equally lacklusterHatchet and Spiral, so none of this should have surprised me.)
In the extra features on this Disc, Solet reveals that he originally wrote Grace as a "creature feature", but then decidedly to go with a more subtle approach. Perhaps he should have stuck with his original plan. Instead, we get a movie which is full of ham-handed sub-texts in the movie. Madeline is a vegan, who loves to watch animal cruelty videos and she has a baby who lives off of blood. Is this irony supposed to be funny. The movie also goes nuts hammering home the message that mother's will do anything for their children, illustrating this through the actions of Madeline and her mother-in-law. This angle actually isn't bad, but by the final reel, we say, "We get it!" In the film, Grace was not stillborn, but this movie is.
Grace has no taste for formula on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain (which does worsen in some shots) and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, but some scenes are notably darker than others. The level of detail is good, and we can really see this in close-ups. The Disc carries a Linear PCM 5.1 lossless audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 4.6 Mbps. (Be careful, as Dolby Digital 5.1 is the default track here.) This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a deceptively quite movie, so there are some sudden effects on the track. The stereo is good, and we have some nice off-screen sounds, most notably the baby's cries. There is great subwoofer action and stereo separation during the birth scene.
The Grace Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features Writer/Director Paul Solet and star Jordan Ladd. The second teams Solet with Producer Adam Green and Director of Photography Zoran Popovic. "Grace at Sundance" (13 minutes) follows Solet as he takes the film to the Sundance Film Festival. The piece plays as a quasi-diary as the director discusses his feelings about the experience. We also get to view a post-screening Q&A. In "Grace: Conception" (7 minutes), Solet talks about the origins of the film and reveals that in the initial script, the baby was a monster. He also states that he initially left the film ambiguous. We get to see clips and some behind-the-scenes footage from the short film which pre-dated the feature. We also get to see Solet walking around with a fake dead baby. "Grace: Delivered" (37 minutes) is made-up mainly of on-set footage, where we get to be a fly on the wall (pun intended). There are occasional to the camera from cast and crew. "Grace: Family" (12 minutes) is an examination of the cast and characters. It examines each actor and character individually, and we get comments from the cast. "Her Mother's Eyes: The Look of Grace" (7 minutes) contains comments from production designer Martina Buckley and director of photography Zoran Popovic, who discuss how they helped the visuals to tell the story. "Lullaby: Scoring Grace" (9 minutes) is an interview with composer Austin Wintory. The final extra is the TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long