'Grace'

"Rosemary's Vegan Vampire Baby" would be a fine title for satirical creepfest "Grace."

“Rosemary’s Vegan Vampire Baby” would be a fine title for “Grace,” a satirical creepfest that mines modern motherhood for all its latent terrors: Breastfeeding. Baby monitors. Mothers-in-law. Splatter freaks will suckle on “Grace’s” high corpuscle count and others will laugh at the sendup of post-natal obsessiveness. But progressive parents beware: When the movie’s besieged mom fixes her problem child a bottle filled with meat juice squeezed from plastic-wrapped beef roasts, you may just lose your mind.

Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) is first seen staring at the ceiling while having sex with her alternately dull and nasty husband Michael (Stephen Park). When, after Madeline gets pregnant, the couple visits midwife Patricia Lang (Samantha Ferris) — who happens to be Madeline’s ex-lover — Michael is full of insulting questions. On the way home, road-hog Michael causes an accident that kills both himself and the unborn baby.

Or so we think: Insisting on carrying the fetus to term, Madeline — and everyone else — is stunned when the baby is born alive. But rather than being Mommy’s little bundle of joy, little Grace turns out to be a nipple-gnawing malcontent who attracts flies.

Hitchcock was renowned for imbuing the most pedestrian object with dread and, while Solet certainly isn’t pretending to be that subtle, he does bestow a sense of crawling tension upon the most benign, or even beneficent, subject — hospitals, doctors, airbags, tofu, animal-oriented cable TV, a cat, a package of liver. It’s both hilarious and politically piquant.

Madeline might have been able to rear little Grace if not for her mother-in-law Vivian (Gabriella Rose), who refers to Madeline as “that woman my son married,” and who is intent on wresting Grace away. Enlisting her own feckless Dr. Sohn (Malcolm Stewart) to declare Madeline incompetent, Vivian starts lactating herself in anticipation of getting the baby.

In the showdown between mother and mother-in-law, the proceedings are peppered with spasm of violence that are alternately sick-funny and downright chilling, but don’t cancel out the intelligence, or at least drollery, with which so much of the film is put together. The cast, Ferris, Ladd and Rose specifically, play it with tongues planted firmly in cheek. Squeamish-making script by Solet treats its aud’s sense of propriety the way a baby treats a diaper.

Production values are good, but the baby-doll stand-ins can be pretty obvious.

Grace

Production

An Anchor Bay Entertainment (in North America) release of an Indigomotion presentation of an ArieScope Pictures production in association with Dark Eye Entertainment. (International sales: Lightning Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Kevin DeWalt, Cory Neal, Adam Green, Ingo Volkammer. Executive producers, Scott Einbinder, Simon Edery. Directed, written by Paul Solet.

Crew

Camera (color), Zorn Popovic; editors, John Coniglio, Darren Navarro; music, Austin Wintory; art director, Ron McCall; set decorator, Jacqui Miller; costume designer, Brenda Shenher; sound (Dolby Digital), Dan Canfield; special effects coordinator, Wade Maurer; visual effects supervisor, Kevin Kutchaver; stunt coordinator, T.J. Bews; assistant director, Richard Friedman; casting, Kelly Martin Wagner, Carmen Kotyk (Canada). Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 22, 2009. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Madeline - Jordan Ladd Patricia - Samantha Ferris Vivian - Gabrielle Rose Henry - Serge Houde Michael - Stephen Park Dr. Sohn - Malcolm Stewart

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