SEPTEMBER 15, 2009
After a (too) brief theatrical run, Grace is now hitting DVD and Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay. I won’t take time to review the film again, you can read my original review HERE and then come back for my thoughts on the DVD.
The great thing about Grace is that it surprisingly holds up on a second (and now third) viewing. It’s interesting to see all of the little moments, particularly in the early part of the film, that take on a new meaning when you have the information from the rest of the film (particularly those surrounding the Samantha Ferris character). And certain scenes never lose their punch; I still squirm at that opening dinner scene (and pretty much every scene/shot of someone or something eating - even the cat eating its cat food is a bit ugh-y). So if you are thinking “rental” - you might be surprised at how effective the film can be on repeat viewings.
And a rental time might not be enough to get through all of the extra features. Director Paul Solet appears on not one but two commentary tracks that are worth a listen. He is joined by Jordan Ladd on the first (this one is exclusive to Blu-Ray), and the track is largely centered on story and acting. For those who enjoy more nuts and bolts type stuff (and irreverent humor), Solet teams with producer Adam Green and DP Zoran Popovic on a second track, where they discuss some of the challenges dictated by the production’s small budget (and a shooting schedule that was cut from 24 to 17 days), shooting in Canada, and a few funny anecdotes for good measure (apparently, Canadians are polite enough to ask someone if they want to fight in a bar, unlike us Americans, who just smash a bottle over a guy’s head and see how the chips fall).
We also get over an hour’s worth of making of material, split up into six parts. The usual areas are covered - conception, casting, production (two on that), music, and then the film’s premiere at Sundance - but they are above average thanks to an unusually dedicated crew (I’ve never heard of a composer doing so much for the film itself) and an emphasis on what actually goes on instead of talking heads kissing everyone’s asses. My favorite bit is a night of shooting in which they have 6 minutes to set up and complete two necessary shots before they are forced to leave the location (someone’s house). A 24-like clock occasionally appears to remind us how much time is left, and damned if its not as suspenseful as the film itself, despite the fact that we know the shot is indeed in the film. The Sundance bit is also great. Not only is Solet sitting on the (now replaced) seats at my beloved New Beverly Cinema during his interview segments, but it shows how hard-working he is when it comes to promoting the film; at one point he stops reading a rave review from CNN (or something, one of the big news orgs though) to hand out a flier for the film’s 2nd Sundance screening.
Now, I watched all of this on the Blu-Ray, and while I usually love Anchor Bay’s work (Children Of The Corn's transfer, for example, is flawless) I think they dropped the ball a bit here when it comes to delivering the high def quality you are paying extra for. Not only are the extras not high def, but they’re not even anamorphic! No one watching a Blu-Ray is doing so on a 4:3 set, so this is just inexcusable. The pieces themselves are put together quite well, it’s a shame someone in charge couldn’t match that effort in the presentation. And the film itself, possibly by design (though shot on film, I’ve never actually seen a film print of it), is a bit soft, lacking the detail that most Blu-Rays offer. It’s not a BAD transfer by any means - color tones are correct, contrast ratio is good, etc - but I doubt anyone would seriously be able to stop the difference between it an a standard DVD (especially if your DVD upscales, which many of them do nowadays). So while you should buy Grace, it’s up to you whether you feel the extra commentary is worth the extra 5-10 bucks or not.
One final note that was pointed out by Icons Of Fright’s Rob G - the extra features as presented on the disc are out of order. On the disc they are listed in alphabetical order, but the ‘correct’ order is the way they are listed on the back cover, starting with Conception and ending with Sundance. That way will take you through Grace’s entire “birthing” process, and thus tells a story of sorts.
Film score 8/10 (Uniquely uncomfortable “real” horror film that holds up to repeat viewings)
DVD extras 9/10 (Above average look at a difficult but high-spirited production)
Presentation 6/10 (Extras are not high def or even anamorphic, film transfer lacks that Blu-Ray polish)