For years, moviemakers have been exploring the notion that inside every seemingly adorable infant hides a demanding monster that will never leave his or her parents in peace. The latest example of this fascinating concept can be seen in Paul Solet’s disturbing new horror-thriller, Grace. The movie stars Jordan Ladd (Cabin Fever, Death Proof) as Madeline Matheson, a young woman desperate to have a baby.
After losing her unborn child in an accident, she insists on carrying the stillborn child to term. After delivery, the child (named Grace) miraculously returns to life with a horrifying appetite for something more than mother’s milk: Human blood. Now, Madeline is forced to make the ultimate maternal decision: What will she sacrifice in order to keep her child alive?
Grace has already thrilled and terrified audiences all over the world. It was one of the most talked-about movies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has been an official selection at many renowned film festivals, including South By Southwest and the Festival du Film Fantastique de Gérardmer in France (where it won the prestigious Prix du Jury). Advance reviews from critics have already hailed Grace as “downright chilling” (Variety) and “a blood-soaked piece of social commentary” (MSN).
Just before the movie’s release on August 14, from Anchor Bay Entertainment, MM spoke with writer-director Solet about his grisly Sundance sensation.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): Grace is an expanded version of a critically lauded 2006 short film you wrote and directed. What was it about the basic concept of the short that inspired you to turn it into a feature? What were some of the challenges in turning it into a feature?
Paul Solet (PS): Actually, I wrote the feature length version of Grace before the short. The short was distilled from the feature-length version of the script in order to demonstrate to financiers that I had the chops to direct the film, not just write it. I was receiving a lot of offers to buy or option the script, but convincing those folks to let me direct it was more of a challenge because, while I had done a number of shorts, I hadn’t directed a feature. That’s the first challenge I faced on the feature.
People are very scared out there—they’re scared of losing their jobs and not being able to say they did everything by the book. Hiring a first-time director isn’t as safe as hiring someone who is more seasoned. It makes perfect sense, though, that a director should have to prove his worth before a financier forks over $1 million to play with. So doing the short seemed like the thing to do, rather than wasting energy fretting over how hard it is to break in. There’s always footwork that can be done if you’re willing to do it.
MM: In writing the script, were you inspired by other “monster baby” movies, like the 1974 cult classic It’s Alive?
PS: I love It’s Alive, I’m a big Larry Cohen fan. But Grace is something quite different. It’s actually not about a monster baby; it’s not a creature feature at all. The baby is just a regular, vulnerable little girl—who happens to have a sinister appetite. But she doesn’t have the means to satisfy it on her own, so the movie is about the choices of the mother, instead. How far is this woman willing to go to keep this child—this miracle—alive?
MM: Grace had quite the reception at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where two people actually fainted during the movie’s premiere. What was your Sundance experience like? Being a horror moviemaker, did you find the audience’s reaction proof that Grace has the ability to greatly shock and disturb people?
PS: Sundance was a magical experience. We didn’t know anyone over there, and we were told again and again that we’d never get in without some kind of connection to the festival. But the festival called us up and they were so excited about the film. They even gave us the prime genre time slot, where The Blair Witch Project premiered. They took amazing care of us.
The premiere was unreal. It’s a very different sort of midnight movie. It’s not Evil Dead II, it’s not a “fists in the air, rah rah, heads will roll” kind of a horror film. It’s just really unnerving—psychologically and viscerally; it gets very deep under people’s skin. I knew we had made a film that was disturbing to people, but I never expected people to pass out from the movie. When I hear about people passing out in movies, I think of Hostel, Saw—really effective gut punches, torture, mayhem… Grace hits you in the guts, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m much more interested in going a few rounds with your soul than I am your stomach.
MM: One could view Grace as being about the sacrifices a mother makes in order to provide for her child. In addition to being a creepy scare-fest, were you also interested in making the film a kind of twisted social commentary?
PS: My job is to entertain you. I’m not interested in telling you what to eat, who you should sleep with or how you should deliver your baby. I just want to get under your skin and make you think and feel a little. I want you to leave a movie knowing you’re alive—and maybe with some incremental increase in gratitude that you are.
MM: According to IMDb.com, you collaborated on a feature-length script with none other than Eli Roth. Is this project still in the works and, if so, would you or Roth be helming it?
PS: The project was for Eli to direct, but it’s been years since we worked on it. It was a very cool story. Who knows, maybe we’ll bring it out stasis one of these days.
MM: What’s next for you—another horror film or do you want to tackle a different genre?
PS: The genre provides a totally unique arena for storytelling. You can take an otherwise mundane idea and pull it into the genre and blow it open and explore it on an exponential level, in ways that traditional drama never would. That said, I’m a story guy first and foremost, so I’m not dogmatic about this stuff. If a story comes along and it moves me, I’ll do it.