Plot: Grace (Mandy Bo) is a young heroin-addicted nurse, who, after an overdose- is snatched from intensive care by the hospital janitor (Jason Barbeck). He imprisons her in an abandoned factory, all the while claiming that the world outside has been ravaged by a nuclear war that broke out while she was hospitalized.
Review: SAVING GRACE is a low-budget, Canadian contribution to this year’s Fantasia Festival. Being a Canuck myself, I should be a cheerleader for Canadian horror, Sure enough, the last few years has seen an influx of solid Canadian genre films- from JACK BROOKS:MONSTER HUNTER, to the upcoming comedy, SUCK, to the action flick DEADEN- starring our own Arrow in the Head- John Fallon!
So, I went into SAVING GRACE willing to cut it a lot of slack, considering the budget, and the limited resources at the disposal of the filmmakers. It started off just fine, with some great initial acting from Jason Barbeck, who plays the kidnapper with a code- who snatches Grace in a supposed effort to protect her from herself. The early scenes, where he puts her through detox, are quite effective. Then comes the subplot about nuclear war- and the film just completely goes awry.
I have no idea what possessed writer/director Chris Pickle to turn this into a post-apocalyptic survival drama midway through, but whatever it was, that idea was enough to totally short-circuit the film and turn it from an initially engrossing kidnap thriller with a twist into a run of the mill, insanely predictable, post apocalyptic drama. This is especially true once a third character, played by Peter Coady, enters the fray. His subplot plays out so by-the numbers it’s almost funny. One look at him and you know he’s going to turn out to be a scumbag rapist, and sure enough, within ten minutes of making his entrance, he tries to rape Grace.
I also really disliked the heroine in this film, which is a huge problem, as we- as the audience, should be sympathizing with her, and not her captor. Grace is such an unlikable character throughout, that we never once root for her to get away from Barbeck- who, in turn, is almost too likable as the captor. This rings especially true in the predictable climax, where Grace finally (despite being left almost unguarded for months) is able to break free- leading to a really silly showdown with Barbeck.
That said- SAVING GRACE is not all bad. While I had huge problems with his script, Pickle does a good job technically with the film, with it being photographed especially well, despite the low budget. Leading man Jason Barbeck is also extremely charismatic, and was probably the one thing that kept me from giving up on this film after the forty-five minute mark.
It makes me feel like an ass to pan a low-budget film like this the same way I would some big Hollywood blockbuster, but a movie’s a movie- and this simply did not work for me. I will say this- despite my intense dislike for the film, the rest of the crowd seemed to enjoy it, so perhaps I’m in the minority here. If you’re willing to get past the initial, ludicrous fact that this film decides to change genres about a half hour in, you might like this. However, it was just all too much for me to swallow.