Madeline (Jordan Ladd) survives a car crash that leaves her husband and unborn daughter dead. Unable to let her daughter go, and perhaps somewhat delusional, Madeline decides to carry the dead child to term with the help of her naturopathic mentor/midwife. Then something strange happens. Little Grace is born... alive.
Grace is a clever twist on It's Alive, a baby-monster movie not about the baby but about motherhood, and what a mother is willing to do to protect her child. It's crafty in its structure and the way it builds tension. It begins to make you uncomfortable by exploiting commonplace anxiety (there's tension in Madeline's marriage, her mother-in-law thinks she knows better than Madeline what's best for the baby) before slowly working its way to the violence and murder that the genre demands. It also takes its time in getting to know the characters so that we actually care when shit goes down. Ladd's sympathetic performance is key in this.
Grace is noteworthy for being a horror film primarily concerned with women's issues, despite being written and directed by a man. The film not only focuses on pregnancy and motherhood (and the anxiety associated with each) as dominant themes but also lesbianism, and all of the central characters are female. In the film's most disturbing scene, Madeline's mother-in-law, distraught over the death of her son, invites her oblivious husband to suck on her nipple during sex... not as a turn-on, but because it reminds her of nursing. In a genre dominated by running, screaming, crying victim-sluts and virginal final girls, it's nice to see a horror movie that at least attempts to flesh out its female characters and show things from a feminine perspective.
I'm happy to recommend this one, but if I can't say that I loved it as much as I wanted to, it's because the thriller elements of the final act aren't as effective as the slow-burn build up. The story and the characters are sufficiently set-up that the required violence and murder seems logical, but it generates little tension or excitement, the direction seems perfunctory and it becomes more of a matter of waiting for things to play out. It's something of a letdown, but not completely; the film ends with a grossout shot that is highly effective and most definitely earned.