Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cradle of Horror: Grace

One has to worry about those extreme vegan mothers and how they feed their young children. Certainly Madeline Matheson feeds her infant daughter a strange diet in Paul Solet’s Grace (trailer here), a new horror film named for the Matheson bad seed, opening this Friday in New York and Los Angeles.

The Mathesons have been trying to conceive for quite sometime. Now that she is pregnant, Madeline and Michael fundamentally disagree over what constitutes proper care. He and his intrusive mother Vivian prefer nice clean hospitals, while she wants to go to a crunchy granola ashram run by her former professor and perhaps ex-lover, Patricia Lang. What seems like a promising set-up pitting good old pre-Obama takeover healthcare against alternative herbs and crystals is suddenly cut short when Michael and their unborn daughter are killed in a freak traffic accident.

Utterly distraught, Madeline insists on carrying her dead baby until she is ready to deliver it naturally. Despite the obvious physical and emotional perils in doing so (let alone physical discomfort), Lang agrees to midwife the unstable Madeline at her holistic facility. When she finally delivers Grace, the seemingly miraculous happens. After bonding with the corpse of her daughter, the infant comes back to life.

Granted Grace seems to be doing fairly well considering she had been dead for days. However, there is something not quite right about her. Her skins blisters in bathwater, she will not drink milk, and she attracts insects like shoo-fly pie. Soon enough, Madeline discovers the red stuff goes down like mother’s milk is supposed to. Unfortunately, supply is a problem, since Whole Foods does not have a plasma section.

Clearly, Grace is thematically and stylistically inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, but while Polanski’s film is a masterpiece of creepy atmosphere and mounting dread, Grace is just sort of slow. While Solet’s screenplay hardly breaks any new ground, there are some interesting quirks here and there, but it concludes with a typically lame horror movie ending. As Madeline, Jordan Ladd (daughter of Cheryl and granddaughter of Alan) is reasonably credible playing scenes of haggard hysteria, but rest of the cast is largely undistinguished.

Though well received at Sundance, Grace is a horror picture that fails to live up to its pretensions. It might well exceed the production standards for the genre, but ultimately Grace simply is not that memorable. It opens Friday (8/14) at the Village East.