Grace -- Film Review

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Paul Solet's "Grace" has done the festival circuit to death, including a showing at Sundance where reportedly two filmgoers fainted. But surely it was an overheated auditorium rather than this undercooked tale that felled the patrons.

"Grace" whimpers a bit like "Rosemary's Baby" and gurgles occasionally like "The Exorcist," but the video look and bare-bones craftsmanship all scream B movie. The best bet for "Grace" is a B-line to home video, which will follow Anchor Bay's first stop at big screens.

August is low-budget genre time for theaters, so grave-robbers and couples in distress are making the rounds. Joining the fray is "Grace's" mother-in-distress, Madeline (Jordan Ladd), pregnant and in a lousy marriage with obnoxious hubby Michael (Stephen Park), who is soon dispatched to heaven by way of a car accident. Also lost, but not really, is the baby Madeline carries, who also is pronounced dead.

As story here is everything and characters nil, Madeline decides to carry the baby to term and deliver the goods via natural childbirth (don't ponder why). To facilitate this, she enlists midwife Patricia (Samantha Ferris), her former lover.

Hardly a bundle of joy, the now-anointed baby Grace is, like the filmmaker, afflicted with a breast fetish. The irritable, repulsive infant chews on nipples, attracts flies and is a source of the necessary blood-spilling.

The other nuisance is Madeline's former mother-in-law, Vivian (Gabrielle Rose), a Margaret Thatcher-type determined to gain possession of little Grace (don't ponder why). Enlisting the help of milquetoast husband Henry (Serge Houde), she prepares her own breasts for the milking job. Vivian also engages wimpy Dr. Sohn (Malcolm Stewart) to take her side in the baby fight by having him discredit Madeline as a mother.

Beyond its breast and childbirth obsessions, "Grace" is packed with other de rigueur elements at the genre's low end. Occasional shots of disgusting raw meat, menacing animals and a symbolic black cat interrupt the action, as do gratuitous digressions into unconvincing lesbianism. A smattering of nudity and a female catfight are other routine menu entries.

The DVD projected for press had a dull look. Solet's writing and direction serve the form and the performances are good enough, but not enough to distract from the pervasive shabbiness. Worse, frights in this R-rated offering are few, and filmgoers looking for an occasion to faint will be disappointed.

Opens: Friday, Aug. 14 (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Production: Indigomotion, Ariescope Pictures, Dark Eye Entertainment, Leomax Entertainment
Cast: Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose, Serge Houde, Stephen Park, Malcolm Stewart
Director-screenwriter: Paul Solet
Producers: Ingo Vollkammer, Kevin DeWalt, Cory Neal, Adam Green
Executive producers: Scott Einbinder, Simon Edery
Director of photography: Zoran Popovic
Production designer: Martina Buckley
Music: Austin Wintory
Costume designer: Brenda Shenher
Editors: John Coniglio, Darrin Navarro
Rated R, 84 minutes