Writer, Director, and Star Mathieu Ratthe has added a gem to the first-person horror genre with his latest project, The Gracefield Incident. A seemingly easy-to-make and familiar plot are not fair characterizations of this film, which Ratthe has set up only to knock down by playing with the genre’s devices. What does that mean? If you think you are signing up for the stale machinations of first-person horror where typical characters are picked off until the final climax, then go watch something else. The Gracefield Incident is a fresher take on the genre, packing some of the familiarity we love with these films, but unpacking a truly emotional story that weaves in empathy and redemption.
The story itself has three setups. Matthew (Ratthe) and his pregnant wife Jessica (Kimberly Laferriere), are driving on a typical day when suddenly a car runs a light and side swipes the two. Matthew’s injury is horrific: His right eye is dangling from its socket. The real horror, however, is what we learn shortly after this scene: Jessica has lost the baby.
Jump 8 months to Matthew sitting in his workshop constructing his latest project. The one-eyed techie is installing a tiny camera in his glass eye, allowing him to capture motion picture in what is now literally a first-person perspective. Matthew’s gadget also functions as a figurative rebirth to his relationship with Jessica and a return to the fun and social lifestyle they once shared before the loss of their child.
Which leads to the final setup: The weekend getaway with friends. In a recent interview with us, Ratthe conceded that the weekend getaway to a cabin in the countryside is rather cliché. It’s a fair admission, but the necessity of Jessica’s and Matthew’s return to normalcy is predicated on the first two setups and allows for this scenario.
But then things take a turn for the bizarre.
Within hours of the usual hoopla, a meteor lights up the sky and crashes near the cabin. Matthew finds a basket-ball sized meteorite and decides to keep this unique space rock, hoping it may have some value. This object from space is only the start for Matthew and his friends, who are suddenly tormented by a presence lurking in the dark woods.
When friends start to go missing, Matthew and the others venture into the forest, utilizing not only Matthew’s eye but another camera equipped with night vision. What starts as a rescue mission turns quickly into a chase, for whoever is out in the forest is hellbent on capturing, and possibly killing, all who reside in the cabin.
Without spoiling the who or the what of the film’s antagonist, it is quite clear that like the meteorite, the “monster” is out of this world. His intentions are unknown. The final scene, however, is an emotional turn that is one of the more thoughtful climaxes I have seen in a long time. It brings the tragedy of Matthew and Jessica’s loss full circle, allowing Matthew, at least, to be at peace and even redeem his fears and insecurities of the unknown threat that has been taunting for him hours. Thus, the film serves well as a metaphor for empathizing with who we generally consider “the other,” while never compromising the fear and entertainment audiences love about this genre.
Eric Dinsmore | Twitter: @dinsmorality
Images courtesy of Katrina Wan PR