US (dir. Paul Solet)
Cast: Jordan Ladd, Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris, Malcolm Stewart, Stephen Park, Serge Houde
Synopsis: After years of trying to conceive, Madeline and Michael Matheson are finally about to become parents. But with only weeks to go before delivery, an accident leaves both Michael and the unborn child dead. Devastated, Madeline decides to carry the child to term and deliver naturally. What seemed like madness becomes a miracle when, after delivering a dead child, Madeline finds her baby is indeed alive and hungry. She soon discovers that her baby, now named Grace, thirsts for something more than mother’s milk, and Madeline is determined to feed her child, no matter the consequences. With nowhere to turn, Madeline must make a mother’s ultimate decision: What will she sacrifice to keep her child alive?
Review: “Grace” was easily one of the most hyped horror movies of 2009. When someone says “zombie-baby” in a description for a movie, it’s an automatic hype builder. Not only does “Grace” live up to the hype, but it goes above and beyond what you would traditionally expect when someone throws the words “zombie baby movie” at you. It has a deep, emotional backdrop coupled with a great script and some very dark undertones relating to reproduction, lactation, and motherhood in general. It also has a fantastic cast led by horror movie hottie, Jordan Ladd, who is as talented as she is beautiful.
“Grace” is the type of movie that has a multitude of layers, each one more complex than the last. One the outside, you have a story of a couple desperately trying to conceive and birth a healthy child and a story of how the baby becomes a zombie and lives only by consuming flesh and blood. On the inside you have a story that involves the madness of motherhood, the nature of consumption (vegetarianism versus carnivorism), the differing experiences that accompany lactation (pain, bonding with a child, erotic thrill etc.), feminism, and sacrifice. It is really a multi-faceted movie that delves into so many themes and concepts.
The acting is fantastic. Jordan Ladd (the cute blonde girl from “Cabin Fever”) really does a wonderful job in this film. Coupled with the actress playing her mother-in-law and the actress playing her former lesbian lover, you get a trifecta of fantastic female actresses working hard to make this movie as powerful and intense as possible. With such strong female leads, you’d expect there’d be some equally powerful male actors, however they are unfortunately sub-par and the best of them (i.e the actor playing a doctor appointed by Jordan Ladd/Madeline’s mother-in-law) have very little screen time. To me, this movie is totally a gynocentric film, so in reality, having a strong male lead could actually hinder the female-orientedness of the film.
Madeline, the film’s protagonist, is a strict vegan (and formerly a bit of a carpet muncher) who has difficult conceiving a child. Upon discovering she is finally pregnant, she goes to great lengths to ensure her child is birthed naturally and that she adheres to a vegan lifestyle, much to the dismay of her mother-in-law. Her husband is a huge mama’s boy; a push-over and a half. He literally cannot take a shit without consulting his mommy. His mother (and Madeline’s mother-in-law) is a prototypical bitch who tries her damnedest to control her son, his wife and the birth/up-bringing of her future grandchild. Of course, this clashes with strong-headed Madeline, and the two butt heads at every turn in this movie. Madeline eventually loses the baby in a freak car accident that kills her husband and despite her grief, she decides to carry the baby to the very end and give birth to the dead child. During the birth, the baby turns out to be actually alive, and Madeline must face the consequences of mothering this zombie child.
Madeline suffers so greatly during the aftermath of the delivery, first by losing sleep over the baby’s constant cries and then by losing blood over the baby’s unnatural appetite. Madeline truly sacrifices herself, body and soul, for the sake of her child, while at the same time her former mother-in-law grieves the death of her son (Madeline’s husband) by venturing into erotic lactation and delusions of mothering her grandchild. A lot of the movie is dedicated to the concept of lactation and “feeding” the newborn child, this concept is explored in so many ways and ultimately makes the act seem cannibalistic and animalistic rather than a natural, bonding experience between mother and child.
Another theme explored heavily in the movie is consumption. Madeline is a strict vegan who often watches disturbing slaughter videos on TV which turn her more and more off of meat. In contrast, the vegan meals she prepares for herself and her in-laws is shown in an even more disgusting way (think extreme close-ups of mushed up plant matter and curdy soy milk), as if that type of food is un-fulfilling or unnatural for humans to limit themselves to. It becomes interesting when later on in the movie, Madeline must purchase chunks of meat and blend blood smoothies for her zombie baby because Grace will only feed on flesh and blood, a direct contrast to Madeline’s staunch veganism. This movie is literally peppered (sorry for the “cheesy” pun) with food related themes, and interestingly enough, the name of the baby (and thus the name of the film) is “Grace” which one often associates with food, since Grace is a prayer said before meals.
This movie is fantastic and will definitely shock you to your core. It is filmed with the sort of perfection usually limited to more artsy films and the cinematography and direction seems flawless. This is particularily suprising, especially considering that this is director Paul Solet’s first feature film. This is definitely one of those “must-see” films of 2009.