Dear Anchor Bay,
I saw your film, Grace, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. You can check out my rave review of it right here. I have to commend you guys on putting yourselves behind a film this dark, this disturbing and that isn’t a remake, a sequel or even by a brand name genre filmmaker. You should pat yourselves on the back, because you’ve done good not just by genre fans but by film fans in general.
But there’s still more to do. I know that you guys are trying to figure out how to release Grace. You’ve done a couple of theatrical runs of your films – like the excellent Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon – and I don’t know if you earned your money back but I do know that you didn’t conquer the box office. Hey, that happens. And I know that your first thought with a film like Grace might be to put it right on DVD, where you know you can sell it to audiences easily. I’m excited for the eventual DVD release of Grace, but I want it to be eventual. You guys must release this film theatrically.
Let me explain my Grace experience to you like this: I saw it at a press & industry screening here in Park City. That means it was a room full of journalists, most of whom had probably been assigned the film by their editors and weren’t there because they are genre fans (like I am). This wasn’t your average multiplex opening night date crowd – this was a bunch of cynical, jaded and pretty tired professional film watchers who had been at Sundance for almost six days already and likely seen dozens of films.
Grace got them. It got them good. At first I heard some ripples of groans make their way through the crowd at some of the early bloody stuff, but that was just prelude. Once baby Grace was born and began exhibiting the symptoms of her unique condition, the crowd reacting like one being, squirming, shouting, laughing to relieve the tension as the movie began really getting under their skin.
At one point – and I won’t reveal which point, as this is an open letter and I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t seen the film – a person in the row in front of me made a disgusting half gagging sound; their involuntary reaction broke the tension that had settled over everybody and we all laughed and suddenly two rows of strangers bonded. It’s a weird alchemy that only happens in movie theaters and usually only happens during really effective genre films. And it happened again and again as Grace kept upping the ante and every single person in that theater reacted so strongly and so uniformly that an outside observer might think we were all actors following a script. But it was real, and the sign of a movie that simply works.
After the movie people staggered from the theater and hung around outside, unable to leave the area before they talked this film out. I’m not the guy who chats up strangers, but that afternoon I found myself deep in conversation with a whole bunch of people I had never met but felt I knew after having experienced Grace with them. We laughed and unraveled the subtexts and layers of the story as some people shakily lit cigarettes to calm their nerves. It’s the sort of magic moment that film lovers live for that, that reminds us we’re a community and not individuals sitting alone in the dark. It’s what we’re chasing every single time we go out and take our chances in a movie theater.
And that’s just something that will never be experienced on DVD, even if you were to invite all your friends over. Releasing Grace straight to DVD will rob the film of one of its fiercest weapons, the audience experience. This is a movie that has the possibility to achieve legendary word of mouth as people come home from the theater and tell their friends about the insane reactions to the movie, to people running down the aisle and maybe even – as happened at the Sundance premiere – fainting. We still hear stories about crowd reactions to The Exorcist, and I think Grace has the possibility of being mentioned in the same breaths. If it gets a decent theatrical release.
Something tells me you guys know this, but I want to be a voice out here supporting you as you make the decision to invest in having Grace be your widest theatrical release yet. It’s a decision you’re not going to regret.