Grace

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Grace would, I guess, be a zombie movie. It’s a very different kind of zombie movie, however, since the zombie is more or less helpless and incapable of really doing harm. Grace is almost a dead baby joke gone wrong.

 

Grace isn’t supposed to be alive since she was killed in her mother Madeline’s womb in a car accident, but she’s still carried to term. She came out dead, but suddenly and inexplicably came back to life, crying as a normal and healthy baby would after several minutes of Madeline pleading for her to stay. It isn’t unheard of to have dead people sort of come back to life, since modern medicine has made it possible to resusitate those who have technically died. But those are usually a few minutes, maybe hours after being declared dead. Grace has been dead for several weeks already, and then suddenly, without any resusitation of any kind, is alive. It’s a whole new way of looking at the miracle of life, though this life isn’t what you expect it to be. After all, how normal do you think would a baby who’s been dead for weeks be?

 

What Grace mainly deals with is motherhood, which generally, all women eventually want. Madeline has been trying to get pregnant for the longest time, and when she finally does get pregnant, she does everything to make sure that nothing goes wrong. A mother is often depicted as fiercely possessive and protective of her child, and this is especially seen in wild animals. Most animals would attack and kill those who dare approach their young. Madeline is in a way turned wild by the experience of motherhood, by her desperate need to be a mother. She ends up attacking and killing those who threaten to take away her child. It’s a bit contrary to the usual notion of (human) motherhood, which is supposed to be beautiful and bring people who have been torn apart back together again. Even Vivian, with her supposedly good intentions of raising Grace, is a bit wild in her need to become a mother, having lost her son to first adulthood and then death. Though Vivian is a bit different since she seems to be more fixated on the breastfeeding aspect rather than the raising aspect. Their desperation to be mothers both took them a bit too far.

 

The actual monster of this film, Grace, is deemed completely normal except for her thirst for blood. Not just any blood, but human blood. It’s a bit ironic that Madeline had resorted to a vegan diet during her pregnancy, but her baby ended up with a taste for things that definitely cannot be found in a vegan diet. You already know that something is up with the baby once it cries to life after knowing for a while that it’s been dead before it was even born. However, that seemed to be the only explanation for why the baby was…zombified. There wasn’t really any explanation for why Grace had a taste for blood, why Grace was even alive. There isn’t any strange thing that impregnated Madeline, it was pretty clear that Michael was the father. Grace was just…Grace, and everyone in the movie just accepted her as she is, and despite her monstrosity (c’mon, she was practically chewing off her mother’s breast!) everyone even tries to protect her. There’s some weird reversal. Madeline, as her mother, protects her. Vivian wants to get her in order to raise her herself, thinking that it will be better for her. Dr. Sohn only wants the best for Grace as well. Even Patricia, knowing the strangeness of the baby, still looks after her. Somehow, without really doing anything and purely relying on the instincts of the people around her, Grace manages to “invade” our world.

 

Grace was written and directed by a man, Paul Solet. This is quite an interesting take on motherhood from the point of view of someone who’s never going to experience it, and only has the women around him as reference. Men are after all never going to know what it’s like to carry around a baby, with all sorts of hormones shooting around inside telling you that you must be a mother and do everything in your power to make sure that this baby will be okay. Grace is horrfying in planting the idea that what if I, since I’m a woman capable of childbirth, turn out that way too, going a bit too far in my desire to be a mother. Or even any woman out there now.

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Grace

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I must admit, I found it very difficult to watch Grace. I enjoy horror films and I have seen some of the most messed up films out there, but Grace is something else. Of course, it doesn’t quite match up to A Serbian Film or Human Centipede, but I think what’s truly disturbing about Grace is that it doesn’t peg itself as a truly absurd film. You can say that Human Centipede and A Serbian Film have gone so far that the actions of the characters can’t be justified anymore. For me, Grace is a little different because you still feel the characters’ need to revert back to simpler, more normal times by rejecting reality for what it really is. I think that that is what is most terrifying in Grace, the inability of its characters to accept loss and tragedy and the inability to move on. I think that it can serve as a reflection for every human being who has reached their breaking point. when all they wanted was to fulfill their dreams and get what they want.

For me, despite a horror film viewing as one that instills a  lot of feelings of anxiety, anticipation, terror, and getting your beliefs and worldview a little shaken up, it is still enjoyable in the end. If it’s a particularly good horror film, i find myself smiling at just how well the director executed the representation of the weird and terrible things that could possibly exist in this world. However with Grace, I truly found myself wishing to maybe never see this film again. The experience felt similar to watching a documentary on a terrible event. It’s informative and it incites many heavy emotions, but I don’t think I want to see it ever again. It carries a heaviness found only in the most terrible of things, the human person driven to doing absolutely terrible things out of loneliness and desperation. I think the film says a lot more about the human condition than it expected to, or maybe i’m looking into it too much.

I do believe that the film works fantastically as a psychological horror film. It really digs deep and taps into what could happen when a woman who so desperately wants to be a mother finds the one opportunity to reach her goal, only to find it taken away prematurely. It is almost as if she wills the baby to life and now that it is a live, she wont ever EVER let go. No matter what. And it is this messed up kind of determination and inability to let go of what is obviously wrong, what is obviously not right, that is I think the very essence of the film.

Even the mother-in-law, who has so much love for her soon, reaches a point where what she wants goes past what is normal and right anymore, and we are treated to a very disturbing scene of “old-people-sex”. No offense to old people,    but I was really bothered to see that.

Grace was a filmy that was already gory and bloody enough, it didn’t help that it rode on some of the most unsettling psychological problems a woman can have.

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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.

Clingy Mom

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Grace is about a mother, Madeline, who has long been waiting to bear a child, only to find out that she had lost her. Miraculously, her daughter, Grace, returns to life with an appetite for blood. This strange character of her child has led Madeline to do unimaginable things for the love she has as a mother.

I found Grace really disturbing. It is horrifying in that sense. It mostly showed how far mothers would go for the sake of their children. Although the message sounds lovely and inspiring, it also challenges the viewers to ask themselves if the act is justifiable, since mothers are caring in nature, or if she has gone too far. One of the moral questions Philosophy tries to answer is if the act is towards the good, is the act always considered moral? The Machiavellian concept of the “end justifies the means” is related to this as well. Of course, if I were Madeline, I would’ve brought my child to the hospital because it scares me. But I’m not a mother, and I don’t think any mother would just give up on their child that easily. Although the movie might just be an exaggeration of the degree of matriarchal love, point is, this movie made me think beyond what I always think when watching movies (predicting what will happen next.)

Also, the degree of predictability is lower in Grace. The more unique plot may have contributed to this greatly. But even compared to other films viewed in class, Grace has the lowest level of predictability. Even from the beginning, I never would’ve expected the story would be about the baby.

A lot of elements helped Grace distance itself from the typical horror movie. One is there is no killer. Technically there is, but the typical killer would have a motive at the beginning of the story. The motive would always be self-centred, heartless, and usually pointless or shallow. Madeline resorted to killing the doctor and her mother-in-law because she worried about her daughter’s well-being. She was afraid they’d take her to the hospital and be taken away from her forever. The motive was not out of negative feelings such as hate and jealousy, rather it was out of love and care. So, for me, Madeline should not be labelled as a killer. Although the main character is an attractive blonde woman, Madeline was not stupid like how most scary movies portray protagonists. She is actually very smart, because she was able to deceive people around her and was able to keep her child until the end. Madeline showed that not everyone can be easily manipulated. This comparison is quite confusing because Madeline might seem like the “bad guy” and she is the one manipulating others. I guess that factor just adds to how Grace deviates from the normal. The distinction between who is nice and who is not is vague, thus leaving interpretation for the audience. How the film tackled sexuality is also a unique element for me. In Grace, we can see the dynamism of sexuality. Sexuality and relationships go hand in hand. There is homosexuality, women domination (mother-in-law, for example), and husband-wife relationships in the story, which makes the movie more interesting and eventful. I think it is important to tackle such topics, even in horror movies, to depict a sense of relevance for the audience amidst the supernatural events that have occurred.

I think the most important element in Grace is the dilemma of the protagonist. It is very unique for a mother-newborn bonding to be the center of a horror film. I guess that’s what made it more disturbing. The movie was able to exploit the wonderful experience of a mother in taking care of her child and turn it into a nightmare of obsession. It is horrifying to think that a mother would kill for her child, but I think it does apply in real life.

Grace

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To be honest, among all the movies we have watched in the class, Grace is the one I least consider to be a horror movie. While I do consider it a good movie, I hesitate to put it in the “horror” genre. I understand that it was shown in the horror film class for a reason, but in my personal standard for a good horror movie, Grace just does not cut it.

There are a number of aspects about Grace that make me question its legitimacy as a horror movie. I have to explain beforehand my standard and understanding of a good horror movie. I am the kind of horror fan who loves the scare factor more than anything else when it comes to watching horror movies. While I love movies that have both an intriguing plot and the thrill aspect, I prefer horror movies that make me scream in terror over ones that make me think until I understand it. For me, an ideal horror movie is one that leaves the audience screaming and terrified, above all else. If I wanted to analyze the characters and the idea behind the plot, then I would rather watch a psychological rather than a horror movie. I do realize that a lot of horror movies contain substantial and controversial issues, but that still does not change the fact that I love watching this kind of movie primarily to be scared.

I think that it is for this reason that I hesitate in considering Grace as a horror movie. I admit that I can see the horror in it, especially when the grandmother had sex with her husband while thinking of her son and granddaughter, but I did not realize that until it was discussed in class. I do not want to have to discuss a movie before I understand what is terrifying about it. By my standard, any movie that fails to scare me without need of reflection is not a horror movie; while Grace is technically a horror movie, I personally do not consider it to be one.

First, the concept of Grace herself is controversial. In watching the movie, I can state that she is an “undead” child, meaning that the midwife declared her dead when she was born, but for some reason she came to life and started breastfeeding when her mother held her. In a common horror movie, the “undead” are seen as flesh-rotting, aggressive and instinctual monsters. However, Grace is a healthy-looking baby and even behaves like a normal infant. Second, it was never explained in the movie how she got to be like that or why the people around her did not seem bothered by the fact that she was (or still is) dead. Even though that contributes to the horror in the movie, the almost instantaneous acceptance of the bizarre situation by the characters makes the plot more confusing rather than intriguing. Third and last, the cinematography makes it difficult for me to consider Grace as a horror movie. The way in which the story was illustrated did not work for me because I got lost in the vagueness of the situation and the peculiarity of the characters’ behaviors. In essence, I was not able to figure out the horror aspect in Grace and would more likely consider it a psychological film than a horror movie.

Saving Grace

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Madeline Matheson, the lead character in the movie, has been trying to get pregnant with her husband, Michael. When she finally succeeds, she makes sure to take care of her health, even if this means disobeying the wishes of her overly concerned mother in law. Madeline decides that she wants to deliver the baby the natural way, while her mother in law argues that she consults with the family doctor. After being in a terrible car accident which kills Michael, Madelin is worried that her baby was affected too. It turns out that the baby died inside Madeline’s womb, but even after this new, she still decided to keep the baby and deliver at the right time no matter what. After the baby was delivered dead, Madeline refuses to let Grace, the name she gave her daughter, go. To the surprise of her midwife Patricia, the baby was wished to life by Madeline. However, this comes with a price. Grace was born with an appetite for blood, and this is the only thing that she accepts. Madeline tries her best to provide for Grace from buying her food, to killing herself at the end just to feed Grace.

This last part of the movie was what caught my attention. Though the plot of the film wasn’t typical of a horror movie, it was the reality of the intensity of the love of the mother to her child that scared me. Though we might usually see love in a good and harmless way, this film provided me with an objective lens to look at the relationships that happen around me. This supposedly harmless love of a mother to her child caused so much chaos, and this made me realize that the same thing might be happening within our families now. The emotions that ran throughout the movie made its effect on the audience that maybe some drama films would do more than horror ones. This hurtful love, so intense that it causes pain and suffering upon others might be occurring within out midst, but we also might be too invested in the situation to see it for ourselves.

Grace

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A long overdue post, but I can’t run away from this one forever.

I’m a big fan of reading about true-to-life horror stories. I research stories on America’s worst  murder cases, read about cult massacres, and enjoy gruesome news bits in small doses. There was one story about the post-traumatic-stress-disorder that the friend of my mom’s went through that stands out to me when I think of Grace. It goes like this:

Woman X had married an older man, Mr. X. They lived together for a few years, along with his dog in their big house, and like most women, marriage was not enough for Mrs. X. She wanted children. Mr. X, feeling past his prime, and having already had children, didn’t feel the need to have anymore. “My dog is my child, now” he told Mrs. X, firmly. A year later, Mrs. X was pregnant, to Mr. X’s surprise. Obviously, she had been tampering with her birth control, but the pregnancy did not last long. A few months into her term, a miscarriage occurred. A few months later, the dog died- which devastated Mr. X more than the miscarriage. What Mr. X didn’t know, was that Mrs. X had purposely stopped feeding the dog- her “post-traumatic-stress-disorder” caused her to starve it to death because she was jealous of the attention it was receiving.

This story strongly reminds me of the turbulence of emotions that Madeleine experienced after the death (and resurrection) of her daughter. I simply cannot imagine the connection a mother feels to the life in her womb, but if it leads her to hurt animals, and (more commonly) herself, it freaks me out enough to reconsider having children!

I’ve always been both inspired and confused by the power of “a mother’s love.” Present in countless literary pieces, such as Albom’s For One More Day, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, and more popularly, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the love a mother has for her child has been described to transcend life itself. But it’s a bit different in Grace. Madeleine didn’t die to protect her child, instead, she urged her child to life even when she was already dead. The love she had for Grace wasn’t the selfless kind, in fact, it was quite the opposite. It was rooted out of self-pity and desperation, to prove her own mother-in-law wrong, and to prove to herself that she was capable. Although seemingly innocent and somewhat pathetic, her love was corrupt.

Laced with disturbing images of bloody cattle, cut-up breasts, and open-wounds, Grace is actually just the sad story of a woman who loved her daughter to the point of obsession. It’s ironic, because the monster is both the innocent child who doesn’t know what harm she’s doing, and the lonely mother who desperately wants to give and receive love.