My idea of disgust (or, at least, of repulsion) can be characterized by a sick feeling in the stomach, akin to the bubbling sensation in your throat when your realization that you just bit into a rotten fruit is proceeded by the image of half a worm’s body squirming around your bite mark. It’s something simple but gross and deep and foreboding, and it sticks with you long after the initial horror has passed.
So to answer the question posited during class: which part of the movie horrified or disgusted me most? To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. The scenes of animal slaughter led to some strange moments between me and my lunch (crispy bagnet), which is a pretty big reaction for the person who thinks the comic Elmer would have been more interesting if people just went on eating fried chicken. I did make a face when Madeline’s mutilated breast was revealed at the end, but that was more an initial shock reaction than it was the feeling of something deeply disturbing settling inside my soul. As a woman, the movie’s concept of motherhood affecting me to the degree that it does Madeline frightens me somewhat, but at least it’s a madness that makes inherent human sense and even the slight disgust I had for Vivian’s rather odd way of preparing for the baby’s arrival was tinged with a bit of “oh, let old people do what they want.” Her actions even made some sense to me in a twist-your-head-to-the-side, practical sort of way.
So. What, exactly, disgusted me the most about Grace? Madeline feeding Grace raw cow blood, if I’m talking about a literal scene from the movie. I could almost taste the cold, watery blood trickling down my own throat, and if there’s anything I hate its raw, icy, coagulated dinuguan. That part stuck with me, if only because I’ve been goaded into swallowing my fair share of balut-vinegar-dinuguan shots and even time isn’t as effective as 190-proof Everclear.
A more serious choice: the use of silence was another thing I found disturbing in the film. The long, tired scenes and the disruptive noises in between stuck with me long after the other shocking scenes faded away. And I could hazard a guess why.
Grace could have easily been drafted as a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby only without all the Satanists around to help her raise the baby. Personally, I would almost prefer the latter situation. I could feel Grace’s horror coming not (only) from the fact that her baby was a flesh-eating monster, but from her having to grapple with the various pitfalls and mysteries of raising her child on her own. All parents at some point find themselves struggling with the frank and frightening uncertainties of parenthood and it was that quiet desperation that elevated the movie from paranormal horror to a general sort of horror story about life. True, the source of the desperation here is a little different (instead of a bad diaper rash, it’s an inexplicable need for fresh blood), but in a world where a new mother can’t even trust the so-called experts, I can only imagine how terrifying that can be.
Grace has some other, more familiar themes to it: horror existing in the familiar, or in the distortion of the familiar. For example: breast feeding, an entirely normal and natural act, was taken to several not-entirely-awesome extremes. But isn’t that what it’s really like in real life? People frequently extol the virtues of “the natural”—breast feeding is beautiful! menstruation is a special honor! giving birth does not involve feces whatsoever!—only to turn around and tell mothers to cover up when they realize just how strange it can be to see a child suckling in the middle of a mall.
Throughout the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder if Paul Solet was the kind of person who’d been utterly crushed watching a pregnancy because he grew up being told that it was a magical event full of sunshine and rainbows. Maybe Grace was his way of working through the issues the experience left him with. I’m sad that I’ll probably never know.