There are horror films that take your breath away with scares and surprises that come at you from out of the dark and then there are the films within the genre that can make you gasp with shocking images and displays of gore. Paul Solet’s GRACE is the rare and artful film within the horror arena that works on the viewer’s sense of foreboding and impossible dread. Horror works best when it can tap into the primal – and there is nothing more primal than the urge to reproduce. And it is that desire to have a child that drives the horror of this film. Yes, there are scares and yes, there will be blood – but that’s so much window dressing to what really drives this thing: a woman that wants a baby. A woman that wants to have that baby so badly that, after a tragic accident and against all physical and natural laws, when it arrives stillborn, she wills her infant girl to life. And we all know deep inside that when you reject the natural order of things, there more than likely will be hell to pay – literally. And that is genuinely frightening.
1. GRACE began as a short before it became a feature film. But what was originally the genesis of the idea?
When I was about nineteen my mom told me I had had a twin that died before birth. That was the personal genesis of the story. The subject matter just became intensely compelling to me on a very intimate level. The idea itself, though, came during a conversation where someone told me it’s real medical science that if you lose your unborn child, sometimes, if labor isn’t induced, you’ll actually carry that child to term. To me, even as a man, the idea of carrying your own dead child to term was such a potent kernel of horror, the script came quite naturally.
2. Describe how Adam Green (HATCHET) was instrumental in getting GRACE (the feature version) made?
Producer Adam Green has been a selfless champion of this project since he read the script. He saw the short at a Fangoria convention in 2006. He’s a very busy guy but he liked it enough that when some mutual friends from the website Icons of Fright told him he should read the feature length version of it, he agreed. He loved it, and reached out to. I met with him and his partners at Ariescope, Will and Cory, and we all hit it off extremely well. Adam and his Ariescope posse began a year long mission to find the right home for the film. In the end, Anchor Bay proved to be the perfect place for the film. Adam had had such a great experience with them with HATCHET and SPIRAL that they were already family. Adam has been a guardian angel to me and this film since our first meetings, all through production, and post and now into GRACE’s birth at festivals from Sundance to SXSW and now to AFI DALLAS.
3. What is the best thing about having your film at AFI DALLAS?
AFI DALLAS has an outstanding reputation as both a film lovers’ festival and a place where the spirit of independent filmmaking is treasured and celebrated. That’s the kind of environment that feels like home to me, and to a film like GRACE. It was precisely that kind of independent spirit that enabled us to thrive even under the constraints we had, and to be able to
participate in a festival that gets that is an absolute joy.
4. Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL) was your camp counselor when you were younger. How old were you at the time and did you hear the best campfire stories ever?
I was about eleven when I met Eli. He did better than campfire stories, he actually directed all the campers in a short movie called SUSHI where we take over the camp and murder all the counselors. The kids fed the staff poison ivy and shot them with those plastic bows, and then finally, he had one of the weirder kids, who was always telling these bizarre jokes that didn’t make any sense, kill everyone by a barrage of bad humor that caused us all to seizure and hemorrhage blood out of our ears. He used the RE-ANIMATOR soundtrack, too, another stroke of genius. He was an awesome counselor, as were his two brothers, and has been a really generous mentor and friend to me.
5. You actually had some meetings with people regarding GRACE early on in the process and described that experience as similar to the film THE PLAYER. What was the worst idea someone suggested to you as they gave you their notes?
When I first got to LA about four years ago, I had just written the GRACE feature. People started reading it and liked it. I got some offers to purchase the script, but no one was prepared to take a risk on letting me direct because I hadn’t done a feature before. One of the guys I met with brought in the director he wanted to attach and the guy started pitching me some pretty asinine ideas. I knew I was walking when he pitched me “The car drives off the road, right? And right through the middle of a devil worshipping ceremony! Naked girls everywhere…” He was also a winker, which creeped me out. Just so classically sketchy.
6. A genre-friendly website named you Mr. Febru-scary at some point. Did you have to do a photo spread or do a calendar or something because of that?
Yes, it’s true. I didn’t have to do any shirtless pictures or anything. But Adam Green had been the Mr. Scary a previous month that year, and I think he actually did some beefcake pics for them. And my other friend, Chris Garetano, a filmmaker from NY, won for another month. I’m tempted to start a rumor that he did full frontal nudity, but he might like that too much. So at the end of the year, we were all in competition for Scary Stud of the Year. I don’t think any of us won, though. There would have been copious ballbreaking had only one of us been a Scary Stud, but as it is, we’ve got nothing on each other. It’s actually a cool little site called Pretty Scary, run by women genre geeks. Some genuinely good reporting. Not just shirtless (Adam) Green pics.
7. Seriously, kids in your future?
Absolutely. I love kids.
8. If you couldn’t make films, what would be your second career choice?
The only things I feel even close to as passionate about as I do film, are animals and bicycles. I used to train dogs, and that really is a pretty amazing job, so I could do that. I also used to love working as a bike messenger back east. I’m still riding around on track bikes in traffic every chance I get, so it wouldn’t take much convincing to get me to start letting someone pay me for it again. But the reality is, even if I couldn’t have a career making movies, I’d still be making them every chance I got.
9. What was the last film that genuinely scared the crap out of you?
It’s not a horror film, but Kathryn Bigelow’s THE HURT LOCKER rocked me. She knocked that film out of the park.
10. Popcorn or candy?
If I’m really limited to those two choices, I’m going popcorn, but I’m all
about ice cream during my theater going experience. Even if I have to sneak in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Did someone get to keep the old-school breast milk pump from the film or are you holding on to it for the Fangoria Hall of Fame?
Are you kidding me?! There’s no way I would ever let anyone have that pump. That thing is on my living room table. I made GRACE so I could put that on my living room table. Although, I have a suspicion it’s the reason I’m still single.
GRACE screens Friday, March 27 at 11:59PM @ Magnolia 3 and Saturday, March 28 at 10:30PM @ NorthPark 7.
Paul Solet will attend both screenings and will participate in a Q&A afterwards.
Back at Sundance – Day #4
This was the day I was looking forward to since I opened up the Sundance film guide and started mapping out what I was going to see.
Today was Scary Sundance Day!
First up was a short film titled, RITE. Alice Conway gives us a disconcerting front row seat for a little girl’s preparation for a very important ceremony. The beginning is very similar to a great film we had at AFI FEST a couple years back, Nicole Barnette’s FOURTEEN. In that film, the little girl was being prepped for a marriage to a creepy old Mormon guy. This one goes another direction. Effectively. I won’t give it away, but it takes the notion of the rites of adulthood to a proper or improper (depending on how you look at it) extreme.
Then it was time for GRACE. Directed by Paul Solet and starring Jordan Ladd, it’s your basic story where a pregnant woman’s baby dies prior to birth, beset by grief she carries the dead infant to term and then wills it to life after it’s born. And then there are uhm…complications… One of the things we learned during the Q&A after the film was that when he was a kid, Paul’s camp counselor was Eli (HOSTEL) Roth. It explains a lot.
Anyway, here’s some things you learn: You can put up all the fly paper and protective netting in the world, but you’re never going to convince flies they should stay away from your kinda dead baby. To ensure that things can get as worse as they possibly can, it helps if mom steadily becomes more and more psychotically focused on keeping said baby alive. Finally, lesbians carrying an unrequited torch can’t be trusted to make the right decisions to keep the horror from happening. I loved this film. Loved it. It takes you down a very, very dark path – methodically and thoroughly, rich with theme and detail. I will finish with this thought: If a rotting but living baby has a bloodlust, is it really necessary to define it as “vampire” or “zombie”? I mean, why must we always get hung up on labels? I think I can state what’s important with this quote from the film: “She’s special, she needs special food.”
Next on the scary hit parade was Jason Eisner’s short film, TREEVENGE. Well, fun scary, I guess. Let me set the scene for you: A pristine field of evergreen trees faces an onslaught of men wielding axes and chain saws. It’s a horrible scene of torture and slaughter and the trees don’t understand. (We know this, because their horrified peeps and squeaks are translated via subtitles.) Then, they’re taken to Christmas tree lots and separated from their friends and family and then put in houses and forced to have decorations put on their branches by more horrible people. Eventually, of course, they exact their,…wait for it…TREEVENGE. In every violent and gory way imaginable. It’s great.
And the evening’s closer was Tommy Wirkola’s DEAD SNOW. Let me say this first off: No matter what country you’re in and regardless of what language the people speak, there will always be young people willing to go to some reasonably isolated place ignoring any logical reason they should do otherwise, for the express purpose of being killing fodder. Second, those young people – even in Norway, in this case – will get a visit by a scary old guy kindly informing them that they’re all gonna die. It’s a grand tradition held since that old coot on the bicycle in the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. And it continues here. And then, it’s time for the zombie Nazis to join the party. I don’t think it’s necessary to spell out what exactly happens, but here are two more truths to leave you with: First, the only thing that pisses a zombie Nazi off more than young people stealing their treasure is young people having sex after stealing their treasure. Second, inevitably while in a killing frenzy against whatever mob of bad things that are threatening you it’s important to also kill your friend or girlfriend because they picked the wrong moment to arrive on the scene just out of your peripheral vision.
I mean, let’s face it – that’s really their bad. Right?