GORE IN THE STORE
WE STILL SAY GRACE **
Directed by Brad Helmink & John Rauschelbach.
Starring Bruce Davison, Holly Taylor, Rita Volk.
Horror, US, 94 minutes, certificate 15.
Released by 101 Films on 3rd May.
The spectre of American religious fanaticism raises its head again in the measured WE STILL SAY GRACE. Starting at the dinner table we witness Harold, father to teenage daughters, Maggie and Sarah and husband to the quiet Betty. A quiet meal soon turns dark as Harold informs his family that the wine they have just taken is poisoned and that they will soon be by their lord’s side. It soon becomes apparent that Harold is only testing their faith. His religious devotion is a warped one that Maggie has had enough of. Living on a remote farm miles and miles away from civilisation ensures that Maggie has no chance of escaping from her strict father until three young men arrive at the doorstep claiming that their car has broken down. Their presence brings out Harold’s more hostile side, further aggravated by Maggie’s independence coming to the surface.
There are more than a few similarities to Kevin Smith’s RED STATE in this feature from directing duo Brad Helmink and John Rauschelbach. From the maniacal father figure quoting scripture at the drop of a hat to the teenage boys finding themselves in over their heads in a religious and homicidal household it becomes difficult not to compare the two. Where they differ however is in pacing and tone. Where RED STATE was fast, funny, and bloody and oddly far-sighted in regard to the delusional fanaticism that would soon creep out into American society, WE STILL SAY GRACE is a much more-statelier affair. The pacing here is much slower and there is a complete lack of urgency in the storytelling even when the outside influence of Fisher, Randy and Luke appear to stir things up. Story structure soon becomes repetitive slowing proceedings down to a near interminable level.
Revelations about Harold and how he keeps his family in check eventually come to the surface injecting some much needed drama into the film. It is a dark edge that the film sorely needs and thankfully makes itself more visible as the film goes on resulting in one particularly nasty surprise that comes out of nowhere and grabs the attention. The films most impressive aspect is in the performances, particularly in regard to Bruce Davison as Harold and Holly Taylor as Maggie.
Davison’s committed performance highlights his skills that have served him so well in the past. The unsettling edge of simmering anger and creepiness that was so prominent in such cult favourites as WILLARD and SHORT EYES as well as his smiling genial nature are both on display here to unsettling effect. Holly Taylor also has previous form as a teen suspicious of her parents with her performance as Paige in THE AMERICANS, one of the best television series from the last decade. She effortlessly manages to make the most of her character and manages at all times to outact the blandness of the three male figures who really struggle to make an impression here.
It’s a passable way to pass an hour and a half if there is nothing else on offer. As an acting showcase it passes muster but as a dark look at the American family unit and the warped effects of devotion and insularity there is nothing new that the audience has not seen before.