It’s crazy to think of what mothers can do out of love for their children. Despite having to keep us literally inside of them for 9 months, enduring the pain of childbirth, and bearing sleepless nights because of our relentless crying, they still manage to do amazingly unthinkable things to take care of us and keep us safe. Which is why when we place mothers in a horror setting, you’re sure that these mothers will stop at nothing to get what their baby needs.
Inherently motherhood is something good as it shows the loving relationship between a mother and her child. But when the mother starts to become desperate and willing to cross the line of what could be considered morally right, things start to get horrifying. This in the case is what happens in the movie of Grace. In Barbara Creed’s “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine” mothers in horror films are terrifying because they become the abject mother. A mother who goes above and beyond borders to keep their status as “loving and caring” mothers. Willing to do questionable things that may threaten the law and disrupt the order of society.
The literal monster in the film may have been the baby Grace, an innocent looking child who craves for blood, reeks of rotting corpses, attracts flies, and maybe even be the spawn of satan, the main driving force of the horror in the film however was Madeline who was willing to go distances as a mother. Her having already experienced failed pregnancies before, Madeline couldn’t handle the fact of having yet another dead baby in her hands. So even when the doctors stated that the baby was already dead in the womb, she still made a decision to undergo a regular child birth with the help of her midwife. And when the supposed stillborn baby was born, she literally willed it back to life. When the baby started breastfeeding so intensely to the point that Madeline’s nipples started to bleed, she would still continue breastfeeding because that is what a mother does, nurture a child. We even saw how this vegan woman who was so grossed out in even holding meat transform into a person who would do the exact same things she would watch in her “horror movie for vegans” to humans instead of animals. In the end she was willing to kill anyone, even her own stepmother, who would take away the most valuable thing she had in her life.
Madeline however was not the only “mother” character of the film. Here we also have the controlling mother Vivian who just lost his son to a car accident and is in desperate need of a replacement. Losing her son made her obsessed with acquiring Grace as substitute, even going so far as to sleep with the doctor so that he would take the baby away from Madeline’s hands. She, just like Madeline was willing to do questionable things just to reach the status of a caring mother. Her motherly nature however would be the cause of her eventual death when she tried to “rescue” Grace by kidnapping her. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Vivian was a monster but clearly she wasn’t of right mind and what caused this was her need to become a mother once more.
In the end, what the movie made me feel aside from being horrified by the image of a half-eaten breast, was an immense gratefulness for all mothers. Madeline as the film’s main character was relatable in a sense that we understood why she was willing to do all those things for her child because we in our own way have witnessed the same through our own mothers. (Although not to the extreme point of killing people and draining their blood for us to drink but you get the point.) They are willing to endure so much hardships and most of the time are left unpraised for their remarkable efforts. The movie Grace however acknowledges this fact and manages to even create a pretty chilling movie out of it. I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend the film to my mom (since she doesn’t really like gory horror movies) but I’ll be sure to remind her how much I love her more often.
Barbara Creed, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002)