10/2/09

Paul Solet's Grace (2009): A Breakthrough in Birth Control?

With October being a newly born month, I thought that it would be appropriate to give a look at Paul Solet’s debut film that focuses on a different kind of newborn, one with a taste for blood. Solet got started in the business a few years back when his much lauded short film Means to an End was selected by Fangoria as 2005’s best short film and included in their Blood Drive 2 collection. The next year he was at it again winning awards at several festivals for his short film Grace starring Liza Weil and Brain Austin Green. The film caught the attention of director/producer Adam Greene (of Hatchet fame), and he approached Solet about making a feature length version of Grace for his newly minted production company ArieScope Pictures. Solet went to work, and now the long awaited feature has been brought to DVD following a successful run on the festival circuit.

Grace is the story of Madeline Matheson (Jordon Ladd), and her husband Michael (Steven Park), a couple who have become pregnant after a long ordeal. They also have their share of problems, perhaps because Madeline is a lesbian who only married to get pregnant. Madeline is also a vegan and very specific about how she wants to care for her herself now that she’s become pregnant, much to the distain of her husband and his mother Vivian (Gabirelle Rose). After being involved in a car accident, Michael and the baby both die, but Madeline insists in carrying the baby to term. She eventually gives birth, but the baby is, as expected, stillborn. However, when her midwife (and former lover), Patricia Long (Samantha Ferris) comes to check on her miraculously the baby is alive. However, the baby shows signs of abnormality and refuses to nurse from Madeline’s breast. When the baby begins to gnaw at Madeline during attempted feedings until her breast bleeds, she discovers that the baby has a taste, and hunger, for blood.

Paul Solet had been widely hailed in the horror community with Fangoria and Rue Morgue magazines hailing him as a rising star, and Eli Roth commented that Solet’s film “makes Cabin Fever look like a Disney Movie.” It’s hard to live up to that kind of hype. I doubt that I would have even picked up this film if it were not for the constant barrage of praise I’ve been hearing. Creepy kids are never a favorite genre of mine, and the idea of a creepy baby did not strike me as a film that would spark my interest. Partially I was correct, but I was almost equally wrong.

Solet’s film succeeds in setting a slow eerie pace from the opening frame of Madeline having obviously bored sex with her husband Michael to the final frames featuring some a pretty disturbing image. He certainly knows how to create the tone and mood he wants in his film, but the question really comes down to, does the transition of the plot from six minutes to eighty-four actually hold up?

The answer is, kind of. I checked out the short film, and it was a well made, technically stunning shocker. I can see why Adam Green would have been blown away by it, but giving Grace a longer running time didn’t being anything else to the table. The feature is cluttered with unnecessary forays into the inner workings of the relationships of Madeline’s in-laws and the romantic connection between Madeline and her midwife. At its core, Grace is a story about the lengths a mother might go to keep a much-desired baby alive, and I suppose the storyline following her mother in law’s reaction to the loss of her son parallels the struggle that Madeline is going through, but it didn’t add any layers of tension and the moments seemed wasted.

Working with cinematographer Zoran Popovic, whose credits include Sean Cunningham’s 1996 film Trapped Ashes, the film is impressively shot. No one can deny Solet’s artistry. . I know that Grace was not working on a huge budget, and to get the look of the film so perfectly formed on a shoestring budget must be commended. I actually rewound the film a couple of occasions just to take a look at how a camera angle was set up to or try and figure out how some of the shots were achieved. Solet definitely has an eye for what makes for atmosphere, and it was the saving grace (pun intended) to the film.

Jordon Ladd has amassed quite a career in genre films since 2002 appearing in Cabin Fever, Grindhouse, and Hostel II. Her performance in Grace will surely become part of her highlight reel. I was very drawn in by her character. At first she seems sympathetic, but the more I learned about who this woman is; the more I found her to be despicable. This is not a film chock full of likeable characters. Perhaps the only person with any screen time that I actually pitied was the put upon father in law. Having to live with Gabirelle Rose’s Vivian seems like a nightmare before her son died, and I felt really bad for the poor sap to have to deal with her after.

In the end, I found Grace to be a film full of promise. After all, this was the first film, and with the great look and feel Solet established I could see him doing great things in the future. So while Grace might be a tad over hyped, the director is surely not. For that reason, I would still recommend this film even though I didn’t really like it. Paul Solet is a strong new voice in horror film, and he’s a name we should be hearing about for some time. So check it out, it may not be everything that people have made it out to be, but it’s still well worth your dollar. In a time when so much of horror cinema is littered with neutered teen fare and tired old remakes, it is refreshing to see a director step out of the box with an original idea.



Bugg Rating



You can also check out the short film Grace over at Freddy in Space.

4 comments:

  1. I saw this film this week and I was very pleased with it. I loved the pacing, the look of it and the fact that so much goes unstated.

    I ended up seeing THE ORPHAN a day later- and I liked it too but that was a film more interested in being a crowd pleaser than getting under your skin. In the end though THE ORPHAN was a familiar song played well- GRAVE was original and haunting.

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  2. I hate to be part of the overhyping crowd but I really enjoyed this one, both for the originality and the strength of the filmmaking itself as you mentioned above. For an Independent Horror film, it is a complete and welcomed surprise, and I am definitely looking forward to Pauls next project! Crossing my fingers it is Indie and small budget.. Dont need him tainted..

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  3. FRom everyone I've talked to, Grace seems to be a film that splits people down the middle. As an achievement in directing, I think it shows a lot of promise, but much of the narrative seemed unnecessarily padded. It was not a bad film but any means,but i just feel like he could do much better.

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  4. For once I'm gonna have to disagree with my man Carl up there and say that I didn't care for this movie in the slightest. I didn't think it was original (Baby Blood anyone?) and I'm not really a fan of Jordan Ladd. And then of course there's the hype. I guess people fainted during the film and one guy even cracked his chin open or something. Paul Solet was proud of this (as any up-and-coming horror director would be, too), but if you're gonna boast about the fact that your movie made a couple of idiots faint, you better bring the goods! GRACE failed to do so, IMO.

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