For the most part, female characters in horror movies are limited to speaking only with men or about men. Grace, however, is very much about women drawn together, for better or worse, by yet another female. In fact, the male characters in Grace are largely peripheral.
The majority of all interactions, including conflicts, are between women. These include Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd of Death Proof), Madeline's mother-in-law, Vivian (Gabrielle Rose of The Sweet Hereafter), Madeline's midwife, Patricia (Samantha Ferris of Supernatural), and of course, baby Grace.
Madeline and her husband, Michael, have been trying to get pregnant for some time. When Madeline becomes pregnant, she convinces Michael that they should turn to a midwife for help. Michael's mother, Vivian, is strongly opposed to alternative birthing methods and in no way afraid to voice her concerns, much to Madeline's frustration and Michael's dismay.
Following a car accident, Michael is killed and the baby is dead. Madeline insists on carrying her dead child to term and, upon being brought forth into the world, baby Grace opens her eyes, shocking all but her mother. But there are a few odd things about the child, such as her smell, the way she draws flies, and her unusual appetite.
Within fifteen minutes of starting Grace, my fingers were crimped with tension. There was no blood on the screen, no violence, but the scene--depicting horror of an almost mundane sort--had me holding my breath. The movie maintains a constant undertone of tension, one that is subtle but impossible to ignore.
I was surprised to learn that writer-director Paul Solet was a protégée of Eli Roth's (Hostel). Roth's work seems to revel in sadism, gratuitous violence, and misogyny, whereas Grace is clever, subtle, and peopled with fully-realized, intelligent female characters.
The women in Grace are well-educated (one is a retired judge, another is a doctor), strong, and firmly believe that they are doing the right thing. There is, essentially, no "bad guy" in Grace, just people reacting--to the best of their current abilities--to a highly unusual, high-stress situation. This is not to say that the movie is crammed with faultless Mary-Sues. To the contrary, each of these women is flawed, but they are all acting with the best of intentions--even if we do not agree with those actions or intentions in the least (and are not meant to).
But enough about the characters, their rarity in film, and their refreshing nature; Grace is a well-written film that trades not only on the more conventional horror movies tropes, but on the terrors inherent in personal drama and family conflict. It is an oddly human movie that does not rely on ghosts or zombies or vampires but on the often fearsome sacrifices of motherhood.
Despite Grace being what I (as a man) might describe as a "woman-friendly" horror movie, it might prove a difficult watch for many mothers--and especially those mothers who've suffered the loss of a child.
Overall, though, Grace is a smart, accessible horror movie that takes an original and far too rare approach to fomenting fear and discomfort through film.