Grasping Grace

The way this 2009 movie starts off reminded me a bit of the 1996 movie “Schizopolis” which we were first introduced to saw once in another film class called “Elements of Screen Arts” taught by Mr. Andrew Ty as well. For some reason, the way that the split second scene of the small television showing a dying cow specifically reminded me of that film because of it’s random and quick insertion – making me wonder why it was placed there in the first place. However, after other similar scenes, I realize that the director, Paul Solet, most likely included it to demonstrate the lifestyle that the lead character Madeline lived which to the audience can come across as her being as clean and simple as possible – vegan, anti-modern medicine, and self-sufficient. Her choice of not only food, but also even the way she has her home set up along her interest in pursuing more natural forms of medicine gave more truth to the said theory of mine. Not that choosing this form of living is strange, because there are several who choose this path because of several different reasons, but for some reason as the movie progressed, you see that Madeline took things to another level.

I found it quite odd as well that there seemed to be no demonstration of grief on Madeline’s end. I suppose her happiness shifting from depression due to the fact that her baby remained alive was a factor as to why she barely grieved for her husband Michael, but as his wife it was strange that the director never showed any side of her grief (if she did in fact even grieve his sudden death during their joint car accident). It was just as if he never really existed all of a sudden, which I think might have been one of the hidden factors as to why Madeline started to develop seemingly mental tendencies compared from how she was demonstrated in the beginning of the movie. It was as if she just blocked him, or her feelings towards him, off her mind – if they were even really there to begin with. Their story as a couple was not really shown in a deeper level which is why as the audience, questions relating to this part of the storyline will never really be answered, unfortunately.

 

Another few questions I wish the movie answered was one that is about how Grace came to life after being dead for weeks, what she was possessed with, and how did Madeline come back to life after seemingly dying in the conflict scene with her stepmother towards the end of the movie. Yes, the fact that there was something supernatural going on with the baby was shown with the typical surrounding of flies over the baby just like in several horror films in the past. That, plus the added preference to blood and more strange events happening within their home despite it only being occupied by Madeline and Grace. However, as the audience we never really get a proper explanation as to why all of this was happening. All we receive is the fear and conflict that Madeline, as a new mother, experiences as all these eerie events continuously occur in her home as she struggles to resolve her problems – without passing out to death in the process.

It would have been nice to fill up a lot of the gaps that the movie had, but I assume that the director purposely composed the film in this way to leave the audience up to their own personal interpretation of how things came to be. The point is, Paul Solet was successful in making his viewers (well, at least myself at the very least being a woman) feel uneasy through this cringe-worthy horror film. In relation to the text written by Barbara Creed, who first demonstrates in her work that the classics in terms of monsters more often than not were depicted as the female gender such as the likes of characters such as Medusa. Further into the text Creed elaborates more on Julia Kristeva’s “Power of Horror”, specifically on her theory of the maternal in the abject by examining both notions of “the ‘border’” and “the mother-child relationship”. The latter in which you see in the film both from Madeline to Grace, as well as from Vivian to her son Michael which then passes on to her urge to raise Grace herself. Within the context of the horror film, Creed names popular monstrous figures such as vampire, zombies, and ghouls as figures of abjection that still hold up until today’s modern age. Abjection is definitely seen through Madeline’s actions as she continues to slowly separate from being what we know as “normal” – from her lies, denial, and absurd ways of not only feeding her supernatural daughter with her own blood, but also in the process accepting her current fate as something that is totally okay regardless of the terrible occurrences that are happening to them. Madeline gives the audience a feeling of some kind of possession with the idea of wanting to make things work as a mother of her new child, regardless of the horrible things occurring. Her maternal instincts to take care of her child is clearly amplified, even if she’s suffering physically, emotionally, and mentally. You can also see this maternal abjection with Vivian as she demonstrates somewhat a form of distortion mentally during the clips wherein she is shown. At first, you would probably sympathize for her loss, but then you tend to question her ways as she does things that are far from normal such as saying lines such as possibilities of her nursing then eventually only using her husband for sex as a way to kind of connect and feel wanted as a mother since she merely allowed him to do actions that were related to feeding a baby.

 

You see all these kinds of messed up scenarios and wonder if there are really people in the world that someone fall out of the wagon and start to act in such ways because of traumatizing events in their lives. Solet gives gets to capture all these kinds of ideas and emotions in his work, Grace, and it’s somehow refreshing to see a horror film done in this form.

 

Reference:

Barbara Creed, “Horror and the monstrous-feminine: An imaginary abjection”

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