Excerpt from Meg’s and my TGI Friday’s business meeting on Friday:
Meg: We need features.
Me: Chemical Element of the Day.
Meg: No, too incredibly boring.
Me: Bowel Movement Fridays.
Meg: We already more or less do that.
Meg: That fucking prima donna gets NOWHERE NEAR this project.
Me: Okay, how about I write reviews/recaps of terrible movies and call it “Worst of Netflix?”
From the mailer sleeve: “When an accident takes the life of the unborn, 8-month-old fetus inside her, Madeline Matheson (Jordan Ladd) insists on delivering the stillborn child – only to discover that the baby is alive and heinously hungry. Before long, voracious baby Grace spurns milk and forces Madeline to slake her insatiable appetite for blood.” Rated R. 1 hr. 24 min. 2009.
I already have a question: delivering the stillborn child as opposed to… keeping it in there?
The movie opens with a shot of an industrial fan, cuts to blood dripping on a foot, cuts to a cat at a window. It’s artistic because it’s bizarre. The shot then cuts immediately to a couple having ostentatiously boring sex. They’re barely moving, and the woman is staring blankly over the man’s shoulder making a mental shopping list. The man grunts and rolls off, the woman draws her legs to her chest, and then opening titles are shown over the sound of a fetal heartbeat as heard on ultrasound. FORESHADOWING AT TABLE SIX.
A family sits at a table being passive-aggressive; the couple we just saw in bed and one set of their parents. The young husband is pretty cute, but we know from earlier that he has a disappointing ass. The mother bitches about vegetarian cuisine and midwives, setting up an Uptight Older Generation vs. Freewheeling Young Liberals Who Eat Tofu And Go To Midwives dynamic. And we’re at the midwife’s. You can tell she’s eccentric because there are a lot of colorful cushions on the sofa. A young Lesbian offers cookies in a wooden voice and goes to get the midwife. Why on earth did they write that part in? “Needed: chick with 12-year-old boy’s haircut to say two sentences with no intonation. Union only.”
Midwife: “We keep the focus on you and your baby.” As opposed to Birth For Dads, the Oklahoma City midwifery that offers hot wings and classic Super Bowls on the big screen while your wife goes to the hospital by herself. We’re reminded that the midwife is “kooky” by a shot of a grimacing Aztec figurine on the coffee table. “You think childbirth hurts? Nothing like having your heart ripped out and offered to the sun.”
The husband and the midwife spar over the midwife’s qualifications; turns out she trained in “a dozen Eastern modalities, in Nepal, Thailand…and I have an M.D. from Columbia.” “If you’re having birth problems, I feel bad for you, son; I got 99 Eastern modalities but Feng Shui ain’t one! (Hit me.)” There’s a brief discussion of Madeline’s medical history, and then cut to TV screen showing a cow being butchered, then cut to Madeline pouring soy milk into a bowl. Because, you know, soybeans are people too. She unwraps a brown paper bundle marked with an illegible note to reveal a raw liver, finds a dead mouse on the porch, and composts the mouse. Fucking hippies.
We then cut to the couple at dinner. They have a vapid conversation about how She’s A Hippie and He’s Not. The husband, whose name we don’t know but looks like it should be “Cecil,” is waaaaaaaay less attractive when you see him up close. After name-dropping an imaginary Seven Sister, “Amesley,” Madeline folds over in pain all of a sudden, and we go to the ER. The midwife and various doctors have a turf war:
Midwife: What are her levels?
Midwife: Tell me you checked her levels.
Other doctor: Let’s check the levels.
15 seconds later, the “levels” appear, (turns out they were on a sheet of printer paper just offscreen) and it turns out she has a gallstone. You know. Her levels. We ran them through the thingometer and the diagnostinator.
So now the couple is driving home, a hiss is heard, the airbags go off and the car crashes - in that order. We don’t know if her husband lived – presumably yes, because the car hit the trees on Madeline’s side, but you can never tell – and Madeline goes to the midwife’s. Midwife and Random Lesbian have a conversation revealing that Madeline is going to deliver in three weeks, despite the fact that the baby died in the accident. Random Lesbian thinks this is stupid, to her credit. She’s emerging as my favorite character. A brief, barely coherent scene with the husband’s parents reveals that the husband died, and that his name was Michael. The car ran off the road into a stand of thin birches at about thirty miles an hour, and the airbags deployed before they even hit. I’m not clear on how this killed a grown man.
Madeline goes to a baby store, a clot or something falls from the general area of her womb, and she falls to the floor. Cut to her giving birth at the midwife’s SURROUNDED BY RANDOM WOMEN. You know what I find comforting when grieving and in pain? Four strangers. The baby is born dead – in a pool, of course, with a dramatic plume of blood. The midwife steps out, since propriety dictates that bereaved mothers be left alone clutching their dead infants, and when she comes back Madeline is breastfeeding the “alive” baby.
The midwife visits Madeline and Grace at home, and there’s a long, stilted conversation. The most interesting part of this is that we see that Madeline’s bathroom door is made of stained glass, an oddly festive touch. She also watches documentaries on animal cruelty while cooking:
Madeline: It’s like a vegan horror movie.
Really? Because I thought that role had been filled by Killer Tomatoes Eat France, but what do I know?
Madeline brushes Grace’s hair, Grace starts to cry, Madeline composts the brush (fucking hippie), as an ominous calliope version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D rises and swells. A newborn fussing? She must be a vampire. We then go to Grace’s room later that night and see a fly crawl up her nose.
A lot of “ominous” stuff happens without much direction. Michael’s mother is still sad. The cat shits on the floor. Grace smells bad. Grace oozes blood. Grace’s body temperature is 93.3 degrees. Grace attracts flies.
Pointless revelation! Midwife and Random Lesbian are lovers; Midwife and Madeline USED to be lovers. Hey-o! Too bad I have no investment in these characters. I do wonder if they intentionally made Madeline a LUG stereotype. We get to the inevitable scene where Grace is being breastfed and chomps down on the tit. Cut to Michael’s mother fondling her own breasts. You know, whatever. It’s not a horror movie without a tit shot – if the tit belongs to a grieving mother who, though approaching her autumn years, has held up well, who am I to judge? Cut to Madeline peeling her bloody nightgown off her bitten breast. (How does a baby with no teeth yet bite hard enough to make a wound that bleeds freely?) Grace shows a strong preference for the bloody breast.
Now Madeline is at the grocery store. A couple pints low, she listlessly throws some “homeopathic remedies” into her cart, since vampirism is traditionally cured by flowers and rainbows. She buys some steaks, squeezes them out, gives Grace a bottle of blood, and composts the meat. She comes back in to find Grace twitching; she leans over her and – of course – Grace vomits the beef blood into her face.
Michael’s mother asks a psychiatrist to declare Madeline insane so she can raise the baby. Neither of their faces is visible because of the strong afternoon light coming through the windows behind them. The psychiatrist is drinking milk out of a rocks glass. Sure, why not? That’s what good crystal is for. Presumably the milk is symbolic of something, but damned if I know what.
Stuff keeps happening. Vampire baby sucks blood. Madeline calls the midwife but Random Lesbian won’t deliver her rival’s messages. The doctor shows up and does a physical on the badly anemic Madeline, and there’s some chit-chat about breast pumps. She kills the doctor and feeds Grace his blood. By now, Grace has almost entirely become Little Shop of Horrors.
The mother-in-law, whose name is Vivian, we finally learn, shows up and Finds Out Everything. She and Madeline kill each other, as they had always hoped to, and the abruptly suspicious midwife performs a Deus Ex Machina and finds little Grace in her grandmother’s arms, reaching for the blood from her neck wound.
So, of course, Midwife and Random Lesbian buy a caravan, dye their hair, and raise little Grace as a road baby. Using “science,” they can keep Ransom Lesbian’s “levels” high enough to feed little Grace. Unless:
Random Lesbian: She needs more now. She’s teething.
And our last shot of the film is Grace reaching hungrily for RL’s chewed-up breast. The closing titles, like those of any movie about a child, are accompanied by a woman tunelessly singing a lullaby.
This movie is a lot worse than it should be. The script is bad, but I’ve seen worse. The cinematography is actually very good, but it’s like putting a silk gown on an irregular mannequin you fished out of a Dumpster. You can only make it so attractive. The whole thing is played completely without humor. The hippie mother composting everything, the sharp-tongued mother-in-law, a woman whose baby is a vampire going to the store to load up on herbal supplements – this could have all been played with some grim humor without making the film “not scary.” As it stands, the characters just kind of… do things. There are a lot of interesting things a filmmaker could do with a vampire baby, but we’ll have to wait until the next movie to see what they are.
Grade: B minus
Recommended for: The patriarchy
Not recommended for: New mothers with babies who are very light-sensitive and drink only fresh human blood
Highlight: Note that watching all the animal cruelty documentaries enables Madeline to expertly butcher the doctor.
Best excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on the movie: "Some scenes portray a tender mother-daughter relationship while others involve erotic lactation and cannibalism," and the revelation that it is not RL but Madeline in the final scene. In my defense, she had dyed her hair.