Abjection, Your Honor!

“Grace,” a horror film written and directed by Paul Solet, is a slow paced, will-slowly-creep-the-sh*t-out-of-you type film. Personally, I prefer a fast-paced, in-your-face type horror film like “Evil Dead.” However, there is a lot to appreciate with the movie Grace. The central topic of the film is about women, particularly mothers – a theme widely used in the horror genre.

Barbara Creed’s “Horror and the Monstrous Feminine” presents the concept of abjection in the light of women’s portrayal in the horror genre. An abject is something that,  according to Julia Kristeva, “does not respect borders, positions, rules… that which disturbs identity, system, order.” Since people, as a society, find identity in the presence of order, the horror of abjection is clear. Simply put, abjection threatens the order of society, in which people derive a sense of purpose and meaning from. With this being said, the experience of abjection involves the separation of oneself from the abject, for example, bodily wastes such as feces, urine, vomit, etc. However, the ultimate form of the abject is a dead body, precisely because it symbolizes “one of the most basic forms of pollution – the body without a soul.”

In the context of horror, Creed illustrates that abjection can be in the form of a vampire (bodies without souls), zombies (living corpses) and even, werewolves (collapse of boundary between what is human and animal). In the case of the movie Grace, a clear cut representation of abjection: baby Grace. Some might even say that she is a new strain of zombie, a developing one that is. There are several signifiers which prove that she is, in fact, an abjection. The most dominant of all is that, she is dead, or better yet, undead. In the film, the unborn baby Grace was declared dead due to the incident that also killed her father. However, because of Madeline’s, for the lack of a better term, persistence, she was born and soon revived back to life. However, this did not come with it own repercussions and consequences. Because she is undead, she feeds on blood, and not just any blood: human blood. Furthermore, she releases a stench that no normal baby could, perhaps because of the fact that she is dead and alive at the same time. The mere presence of Grace is a threat to society. Creed describes the purpose of the monster in horror film as something that “bring(s) about an encounter between the symbolic order and that which threatens its stability.” For example, King Kong is produced between the border of what is human and beast. For the context of Grace, she is constructed between the border of dead and undead.

Creed describes the third way horror films feature abjection is through the maternal figure. The process of abjection is seen through childbirth, in which the child attempts to separate from the mom, which makes the mother an abject. The mother is seen as a monstrous being for refusing to sever her ties with her child, while the child’s father, is depicted  as the opposite. Going back to the movie, we see that even with the knowledge of her baby’s death inside her, she risks carrying the child to full term. She is the mother of Grace, therefore she is the source of this abjection; of this evil. Creed justifies this claim by saying that the horror film portrays women’s sexuality as the source of all evil. The movie definitely follows this narrative, as seen in all three lead women characters in the film: Madeline, Vivian and Patricia. Madeline, of course, is the bearer of this undead baby to the world. Patricia, who has displayed homosexual affection and desire for Madeline, participated directly to the birth of Grace, and towards the end of the film, even the nurture of the baby. Vivian is portrayed as the controlling, insecure, and overly-attached mother (not wife) that is willing to go to great lengths to satisfy her obsession of nurturing a child. This is seen in the arguably comedic scene wherein she entices her husband to suck her breasts in an attempt to simulate a baby sucking her nipples for milk.

But, set aside all of those film analysis and frameworks, the movie Grace was “not all that.” The special effects and overall direction of the film constantly ejects me from its illusion and I am reminded of its fictional properties. The script was great, however, I think it would have worked better if it stayed a short story, instead of a full length movie. The slowness of the film is not compensated for the disturbing and graphic images it tries to throw at the audience, again because of its B-grade effects. I don’t think I’ll be recommending this film to my peers, but perhaps I will keep it in my archive should I run out of more interesting films to show them.

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