Anchor Bay // 2009 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // September 23rd, 2009
Pregnancy is one of the most anxiety ridden periods of a woman's life, so it seems natural that this should also be fertile ground for a horror movie -- though, to date, only Rosemary's Baby seems to have pulled it off. The 2009 film Grace, which had an extensive festival run earlier this year -- including a spot at the Sundance Film Festival -- hopes to join that elite club. Unfortunately, it falls so woefully short, it packs about as much scares as Knocked Up.
Grace is the story of Madeline (Jordan Ladd, Death Proof), an expectant mother who eschews a hospital delivery for a new-agey midwife. However, while eight months pregnant, Madeline survives a car accident that kills her husband and her unborn baby. Going against her midwife's advice, Madeline carries the dead child to term, and miraculously brings it back to life through love. Though the baby is a living miracle, its insatiable bloodlust compromises the celebration. (Note: Though an argument could be made that this recap gives away spoilers, all the information is provided on the synopsis on the back of the Blu-ray case.)
Part of the problem with Grace, as could be inferred by the plot, is that it is almost as much melodrama as horror -- and these are two genres that go together about as well as peanut butter and onions. It's not even good melodrama; the first 40 minutes of the film depicts the pain and anxiety of a pregnant woman who's had two miscarriages and is struggling with an unsupportive family. Grace is not really insightful, but instead just tries to mine the tragedies for all the pathos it can. Initially I thought this was a Lifetime movie of the week that had been slipped into the wrong case.
As much as I found the drama of the first act off-putting, it was also a tactical mistake. With a dead husband, a stillborn child, and the memory of two miscarriages, there is little emotion left to deal with a blood-drinking baby. After all these all-too-real horrors, the demonic child ends up seeming a little silly, which is probably not what the all-too-earnest filmmakers were going for.
The Blu-ray by Anchor Bay is a mixed bag. The low-budget movie can't produce a picture quality that takes advantage of the 1080p transfer. The bright scenes in the first half of the film seem dull and grainy; the darker second half of the film lack the fine detail and definition we've come to expect from Blu-ray. That said, Grace does come with a bountiful collection of extras. Among the best features on independent films are the commentaries and featurettes that depict the myriad challenges in producing a movie on a shoestring. Writer/director Paul Solet does a great job of that here, appearing on two commentary tracks. Additionally, there is a great featurette, "Grace at Sundance" that takes you all the way up to the film's premiere at this country's finest film festival. Seeing how much work and passion went into the film can't help but make me appreciate it more -- or, perhaps, somewhat is the more appropriate word.
Guilty of infusing an unsettling amount of cloying melodrama into a film that should have been just suspenseful and/or gory.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site