Evil Little Things
In my capacity as a critical viewer of genre cinema I've come to the understanding that appreciating the fine points of any given film is more matter of what the filmmakers do despite the well-worn tropes. You cannot get a film made these days, or at least distributed on a national level, that doesn't in some way refer to earlier films. Of course, that is where the term "genre" comes from, so these kinds of tropes are inevitable, regardless of business truths.
Got it? Okay, let's talk about Grace. Now, there are plenty of films and stories about children that are dead, near-dead or otherwise replaced that come back with something not quite right. This kept me from renting this flick for sometime. Another Bad Seed? Omen? No, thanks. But, I was tasked with finding some films that might scare some ladies, so this seemed like a smart choice. They chickened-out before even watching it, but I have to say that I was very impressed with this flick when I watched in on my lonesome.
Like I said, its not so much about concept, its about what is done with the concept. On these terms, Grace is smart, evocative and filled with a sincere horror vibe. Written and directed by Paul Solet, the film makes it clear that it is serious from the beginning, as it fires away at multiple "taboo buttons" at once. The script is smart and delivered well by the leads. What keeps the film working is the multiple threats it develops over the course of the second act -- there are more questions in play than what is wrong with Baby Grace. These threats really drive the film, because anyone who paid attention in the first half of the has some idea what is wrong with Baby Grace.
Furthermore, we never really know what is wrong with Grace. The child is like a disease that we can see the symptoms of but never name. Zombie baby? No. Vampire kid? No. Does it matter? Not really. In this way, it's closer to the classics of horror short fiction and anthology films. We don't need to know what is wrong with the kid. To explain would only distract and soften the unknown threat.
Madeline Matheson (an allusion, perhaps?) as she descends into the world of Grace and survives the wicked machinations of her mother-in-law. Madeline does what she needs to do to feed Grace, and Hellraiser is a subtle influence or expectation for these sequences.
Grace is disturbing. Grace is filled with a kind of horror that feeds on dread and deep instincts. It's smart. This isn't a party film, but is worth watching if you want to see a worn trope done right (and fresh) and treated with the sincerity that marks the classics of the genre.
No time to go into them here or now, but I need to give a serious thumbs-up to both Babysitter Wanted and House of the Devil. Both films deal with evil children, walk in the path of trope, and both offer some nice additions and twists on what we all expect to happen. House of the Devil offers some excellent retro production, as well.