Barbara Creed, in her article, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection”, talks about abjection in general and specifically, in horror films and the relationship of the abject from the subject in these films. Abject, as stated in the article, is defined as “that which does not ‘respect borders, positions, and rules’…’that which disturbs identity, system, order”. An abject goes beyond what is normal. Barbara Creed discusses three ways in which abjection is illustrated in horror films. First, in horror films, the images of the abject are always there and seen. Some of these images would be corpses, zombies, and generally, the monsters in the film that comes with fluids deemed as filthy such as blood, vomit, etc. Second, there are those which go beyond the ‘border’ (between what is human and non-human) or threaten to go beyond it, or that which are to be extinct or threatens what is human. These are the images, as mentioned in the first, and their acts in the films. Lastly, she discusses a specific kind of abjection. There is abjection in the relationship between a mother and child. In the relationship of the two, a child tries to separate himself or herself from the mother. This is how the mother becomes the abject.
Abjection is illustrated in several forms in the film, Grace, directed by Paul Solet and released in January 19, 2009. The film focuses on a mother’s relationship with her child, the monster in the story. It revolves around the undying love of a mother and the undying child of the mother as well. In other words, the baby was a zombie and the mother, trying to care for her as much as she can, sacrifices a lot, even her own flesh, for the baby. Mothers, going beyond what is normal for their child, or to continue to be validated as a mother, and how they threaten the law of patriarchal society, shows the mother as abject.
In the film, abjection occurs several times with different characters and in different situations. The abject character in the film, an obvious one at that, is Grace, the zombie and monster of the film, and the ultimate symbol of horror. She has flies all around her all the time and ingests what it is humans expel such as blood. Grace is abject because of her identity and abnormality and that her existence, as she comes to life after dying, already shows a scarier world. She is a zombie who lives off of the blood and meat of her mother (and eventually of another man) and this is a fact that goes beyond the border, threatening the extinction of the subject, Madeline and threating the extinction of humans. In the film, we also see Grace as an object of obsession both by Madeline and her mother-in-law.
Two characters in the film, on the other hand, struggle to stay away from abjection. These two characters, Grace’s mother, Madeline, and her mother-in-law, both going through different stages of motherhood, in the film wants to stay as subjects and not go beyond the border. Barbara Creed talks of the abjection in a mother-child relationship wherein a child has the desire to break free from the mother. For Grace’s mother, Madeline, with a background of previous child loss, it is seen how she feels the need to be validated as mother. In an attempt to stay with her child to stay away from abjection, she continuously makes sacrifices for her. For example, she lets Grace bite off bits of her breast to suck in blood or, like in the end of the film, bite off chunks already. Grace’s mother even goes to an extent where she feeds her baby the blood of the man she killed. Madeline’s mother-in-law, on the other hand, having lost his son in a car accident, still cannot let go of her son. With this, she attempts to get her granddaughter from Madeline to, similar to her, feel validated as a mother again. Throughout the film, her want to become a mother again is evident. She tries to be hands on with the pregnancy of Madeline, she attempts to illegally steal the child from Madeline, she prepares for the coming of the child by buying a crib, trying to get milk from her breasts, etc., and even tries to get the pleasure of breastfeeding (because of her breastfeeding fetish) from her husband. This was her attempt at staying away from abjection in the context of the mother-child relationship.
Source: Barbara Creed, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).