Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

Michael (Stephen Park) and Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) are embarking on the magical journey of parenthood. The only dark cloud on the horizon is a feud between Madeline and Michael’s mother (Gabrielle Rose) over whether the child should be born in hospital under the care of family friend, Dr Sohn (Malcolm Stewart) or at a special natural birth clinic under the care of a friend of Madeline’s, Dr Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris).

The situation has reached détente when calamity strikes in the form of a fatal accident that changes all the rules. Madeline’s baby is declared dead in the womb, but Dr Lang insists the birth process be allowed to come to term naturally. After a traumatic birth - a miracle - the baby is alive.

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For a while there was a glut of movies celebrating the joy and wonder of childbirth and a plethora of cute babies often, surprisingly, voiced by John Travolta or Bruce Willis, with agreeable humour and bright colours and all was well in the natal world. More recently, babies have caused social problems for young mothers in the likes of Juno. We’ve moved away from the Seventies, where tots could be Damien and downright demonic or furry if their mother was named Rosemary, or - if you were unlucky enough to be John Hurt in 1978 - you’d have the ultimate in unwanted pregnancies.

In Grace, baby horror is back with a vengeance. This is no It’s Alive or I don’t Want To Be Born monster movie though. Director Paul Solet has crafted an icky nightmare in the style of early Cronenberg, a body-horror with an eye for uncomfortable detail.

Hard to believe this is the debut feature, as Grace has an exemplary build up of dread as the action progresses from normalcy to hell and garnered a vocal response from presumably hardened critics at Sundance ranging from nervous laughter to retching and even to two folk with weaker constitutions passing out at the premiere.

Anchored by the performance of genre veteran Jordan Ladd, who goes above and beyond as a mother embracing extremes to care for her newborn. A creepy no-holds-barred turn from Gabrielle Rose as Michael’s over-protective mother and Malcolm Stewart as her reluctant accomplice, a doctor who might have a skeleton or two in his own closet.

The movie plays out with conviction and somber tone aided by unfussy cinematography and a simple but effective score that helps the audience buy into the more outlandish aspects of the tale. I'm not totally happy with the film's closing machinations but the last shot is a keeper.

A pleasure to get away from a genre film that doesn’t rely on empty thrills, winking comedy or that pauses to admire some artisan’s gory special effects creation, Grace marks the arrival of a thoughtful and reverent new talent to the genre.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2009
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Grace packshot
A baby presumed dead in the womb is miraculously born alive. Maybe.

Director: Paul Solet

Writer: Paul Solet

Starring: Jordan Ladd, Gabrielle Rose, Samantha Ferris, Malcolm Stewart, Stephen Park, Serge Houde, Evan Lanier, Shelly Gant

Year: 2009

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US, Canada

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If you like this, try:

The Omen
Rosemary's Baby