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Sunday, June 14, 2009
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Grace Screening at USC!!
This morning I have a rare treat for all you Vault Dwellers. I'm bringing you an exclusive report from Friday night's screening of the controversial new film Grace at USC's Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre in Los Angeles. Long-time friend-of-the-Vault Wes "Fierce" Cavins of HorrorFilmMag.com was on-hand, and was kind enough to provide the following, which I present to you without further ado. Thanks, Wes!!
First let me apologize for the quality of the photos and get that out of the way, hopefully I'll get that 5D MkII soon, lol *cries*. Anyway, getting to the screening was another story altogether, but luckily I made it in time to get a good place in line. About 10 minutes later, the line was snaking all around the front of the theater. Even though it was RSVP only, the guest list was massive and they booked it over capacity to ensure that the no-shows wouldn't prevent those next on the list from getting in.
As soon as the theater was completely packed, the moderator came out to present the writer / director Paul Solet, who introduced the film, and to present the latest trailer for Parasomnia.
The lights went down and the theater was much darker than the average movieplex, which I loved. I had seen a trailer for Parasomnia before, but it was cut together poorly with erratic segments of "spooky" imagery, that weren't effective in any manner. This trailer, however, was very well made and actually got a positive response from the crowd.
Before I jump into my quasi-review of Grace, I just want to point out that this was an official selection at Sundance where two(!!) people fainted and were rushed to the hospital by ambulances. That's a pretty good setup for a , by any measure.
The film opens on what would usually play out as a few seemingly normal scenes of character development, but the dark undertones are just below the surface, festering. There are elements of the story and aspects of the production that are designed to intentionally chip away at any layers of defense you might be putting up against the imagery that your mind interprets as you watch. But, everything is executed with the right amount of subtlety and restraint to keep the viewer from dismissing the purpose of the design.
For instance, you know there will be some blood somewhere at some point, right? Of course, it's a horror movie. But how many horror movies have you sat through where blood is on the screen and you are completely unfazed because you've seen it presented the same way so many times? Or how many times has a character been stabbed with an icepick and an entire bucket of blood splatters on the wall causing you to roll your eyes or bust out laughing?
Well, this is what Grace works entirely against. Before anything even remotely violent is even hinted at, the film is already becoming unnerving and unsettling. A scene at the very beginning where the family is simply eating dinner is incredibly repulsive and the audience was already making all kinds of noises from being grossed out, lol. This is just example of how much more effective the scenes are when the film grows darker and darker.
Speaking of dark, I should point out that while this is very much a disturbing horror film, it is also a pitch black comedy, in a sense. I say that because the film is at times so disturbing and offensive that the audience was laughing in relief from all of the tension. And it was definitely with the film and not at it, which is a very good thing because this film is in no way a comedy.
Generally, when a movie is bad, I have no problem spoiling every last detail because I would advise against its viewing at all cost. As a testament to how good the film is, I don't want to give away anything because I want you to experience the film as much as I want you to watch it. If you have already seen the trailer, don't watch it again before seeing the movie. If you haven't seen the trailer yet, skip it and watch the movie first because there are spoilers in the trailer that the suits pushed in to make it more marketable.
I also want to point out that while I can see where similarities are being pointed out between this and other "baby horror" sub-genre films, this is definitely not mixed with a zombie movie. While the comparison to Rosemary's Baby is definitely a compliment in any facet, Grace is very different in its own right and trying to describe it as a zombie movie is simply misinformation. Plus, it is not a "killer baby" movie. In fact, I would prefer everyone go into watching this film knowing that the baby is not intended to be a scary zombie or anything even close. What you will be watching is a very effective work of cinematic art that will drill it's way into your soul and leave you thankful for having experienced something that was actually worth your time, for once, and dare I say it... moving.
Left to right: Paul Solet (Director), Jordan Ladd (Madeline), Adam Green (Producer), Martina Buckley (Production Designer), Zoran Popovic (Director of Photography), Austin Wintory (Sound Design / Composer), Alex Ago (Moderator / Special Events Coordinator; School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California.)
So, the lights come up and the team take the stage for introductions / Q & A, which I have to say was as much worth my time as the film was. It was actually the director's birthday, so they presented him with a dead baby doll in a carriage, lol. The questions from the audience weren't too incredibly interesting but it served as a good platform for sparking interesting subject matter from answers. Like, someone asked if the cat had a name, and the answer was yes it's name is Jonesy, which Paul said the cat was named after the cat from Alien.
Based off the questions, they also talked about the budget restraints, how their schedule was continually reduced from 24 shooting days down to 17, which resulted in the majority of the shots restricted to only 1-3 takes and no time for rehearsals or blocking, etc. Paul told the story of how the feature came to be after Adam saw the short film, which was actually a promo to get the feature made. Jordan talked about how she had to adapt to play the character having not been a mother yet and how Paul isn't either but there is still a level of connection in the material on a personal level. Adam talked about how he ended up shooting for the 2nd unit even though he said he wouldnt, lol. Martina told an inspiring story about how being the leader that Paul is, is how the film came together with such great talent behind it and how the film was completed successfully despite the sea of obstacles that they had to continuously overcome, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions that were made with the production design.
Zoran talked about how continuous they wanted to keep the shots, which left very little room for coverage, but that was intentional because the production was so thoroughly and precisely mapped out that they didn't need it. Which was also a blessing in a sense, because they didn't have time to shoot much coverage under the circumstances. Austin talked at great length about how music was composed to be played on set for the performances, but then intentionally shelved so that music could be composed properly in relation to the print, as well as how the sound was designed at specific frequencies relative to that of a crying baby so that it could be utilized as effectively as possible at the right times. It was all very interesting.
There was a crew filming the event and Paul mentioned that Anchor Bay is distributing and how awesome they are with handling their releases, so I'm pretty sure that the footage will be included on the DVD. They were also filming audience testimonials, which I apologize profusely for refusing, and I truly feel guilty for denying. That was my fault. :P
The best part of the night for me, though, was after the Q & A was over, the audience / talent wall disintegrated and the floor opened up for everyone to converse. Everyone crowded around Paul for poster signings and to meet him, Jordan kind of ran around like the mad hatter, lol, and everyone else just kind of hung out. I just walked up and stood by Adam as he talked to everyone gathered around him. He talked about various things from the light saber commercial to the status and production of Frozen, also mentioning the Dee Snider story. After everyone said what they wanted to say and took off, Adam and I just talked about random things like how pissed off we were about not getting a theatrical release to how oversaturated the DTV market has become, while we waited for everyone else to wrap things up. Adam is a champ and he definitely won me over just by being a really cool guy, not that he even needed to, its just a testament to the fact.
Then Adam's ride dragged him away as they were locking the building up and that was it. I had a great time and I'm definitely looking forward to the next screening or whatever, whenever that may be. I'm planning on being at the premiere of Stacie Ponder's "Ludlow" in about 10 days, so keep an eye out for coverage on that.
- Wesley Cavins
If you decide to ignore my advise of skipping the trailer and just watching the film first, here is the red band trailer - http://www.fearnet.com/videos/b15677_grace_red_band_trailer.html