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Jordan Ladd gives a terrific performance in "Grace," the other new-to-DVD horror flick involving terrifying tots that's not the remake of "It's Alive." This one's far better than that one, yet still only decent.

She plays Madeline Matheson, a pretty, unassuming vegan/housewife who wants nothing more than to be a parent. She and her husband (Stephen Park) have suffered through a couple of miscarriages already, so when she gets pregnant, they hope the third time will be the charm. Oh, will it ever!

Unfortunately, one tragedy begets another, as a car crash kills her husband and the baby inside her, but she insists on carrying it to full term. Eventually, painfully, Madeline gives birth to the stillborn child. But when she puts it to her breast, the damn thing actually begins to suckle. Madeline names her Grace. Awww ...

How did the infant come back to life? That question may give way to more pressing ones, like why she attracting all these flies? And why does she prefer blood in her bottles to mother's milk? The answers are obvious, which is why "Grace" should probably be a 30-minute short instead of a full feature.

Writer/director Paul Solet does his best to give that maternal instinct a David Cronenberg treatment, and the movie is genuinely unsettling. But it also stretches its one idea too thin, and tonally downshifts into slasher territory for its climax. Points for the jokey final shot "? at least I took it that way.

None of that is to take away from Ladd's acting here. I've always liked seeing her onscreen, whether "Cabin Fever" or "Club Dread," "Hostel: Part II" or "Grindhouse." But she's so good as a desperate new mom, you wonder, "Where did that come from?" She's utterly believable, keeping you watching the second half when the plot already has aborted itself.

Solet shoots "Grace" with a calm sterility, which seems to carry over onto the soundtrack. That's my nice way of saying the movie is too quiet; even with the volume turned all the way up, the disc was hard to hear, whereas the easily queasy will just find it hard to watch.

"?Rod Lott


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