Not Without My Bloodthirsty Daughter
Grace, the long feature debut of writer/director Paul Solet, is an oddly unsettling but refreshingly inventive horror-drama hybrid that can’t possibly be categorized into one single genre. This film is deeply disturbing, emotionally moving, darkly comical and intellectually engaging all at the same time and that is quite a remarkable thing to achieve for a young director who only shot a few short movies before, is it not? Grace literally baths in an unclassifiable grisly atmosphere, the detailed character drawings are unique and plausible and the concept – although rationally impossible – is nightmarishly upsetting. The announcer at BIFFF 2009, where I watched this movie, advised for couples with young children and particularly pregnant women to leave the theater and that was definitely a good move (not that there were many), as this instant gem covers pretty much all the imaginable horrors of motherhood, like troublesome conception, intrusive mother-in-laws, alternate delivery methods, loss of husband and – worst of all – a still born baby.
Madeline doesn’t really care about too much except for the 7-months-old fetus in her womb and bringing it into this world in an old-fashioned and natural way, with a traditional midwife and vitamins instead of a hospital doctors and anesthetics. When the baby stops moving after a tragic car accident, in which also her docile husband dies, Madeline is nevertheless determined to give birth when the time is due. The baby, Grace, miraculously comes out of the womb alive and seemingly healthy, but soon after, Madeline’s biggest ordeal comes to the surface. Grace needs blood instead of breast milk and, the devoted mother she is, Madeline does everything within her power to provide this. Meanwhile, mother-in-law Vivian tries to do everything to obtain guardianship over Grace as she’s convinced Madeline is mentally incapable of nursing her granddaughter. The sequences where Madeline “sacrifices” her own health in order to feed her eccentric baby girl are simultaneously disruptive and affectionate. This is a peculiar combination of sentiment that we’re really not used to witnessing in the horror genre, but it’s extremely compelling to say the least. Also the sub plot involving the aging Vivian rediscovering her femininity is disturbing, but in a never before experienced fashion.
Grace contains multiple shocking moments and grueling images, especially near the end, but the violence or bloodshed is never at one point exploitative or tasteless. So, cult loving horror fans please don’t start thinking this is a modern update of Larry Cohen‘s early 70′s crazed killer baby flick or you risk feeling very much ripped off. This is an often uncomfortably slow-paced and intriguing psychological drama/thriller, with stylish photography and hypnotizing acting performances. Jordan Ladd is amazing as Madeline and this was probably the first film set where she could demonstrate her talented acting capacities, because until now I only saw her in lighter horror stuff like and . Ladd also receives superb support from Gabrielle Rose as Vivian (truly a courageous performance) and Samantha Ferris (best known from TV series like “The 4400” and “Supernatural”) as the alternative midwife. Grace honestly is a movie you won’t forget about easily, that is one guarantee I can give you.