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Review: Stellan Kendrick’s Goodnight, Gracie

As someone who’s Agnostic, I stray away from anything religious when it comes to my horror films. I don’t like the two mixing together because it gives an unfair advantage to the more horrific aspects of the story and most films dealing with personal beliefs come off as preachy. If Goodnight, Gracie fell into either of those pitfalls, I wouldn’t know it because I was far too invested in the awesome production value of this short film and the successful atmosphere it worked so hard to create. Could this be the title to turn my opinion around? I don’t know, but this was still one Hell of an impressive feature with an incredible cast and a style that looks akin to the Conjuring movies. With only three shorts on the table and Goodnight, Gracie looking like an instant hit with horror critics, writer/director Stellan Kendrick cements himself as one of the up-and-coming film-makers to keep an eye on.

Produced by Kendrick and Gloria Sandoval with executive producers Graham Wetterhahn, Joel Deutsch and Marcin Nadolny, Goodnight, Gracie tells the story of an 8-year-old girl who’s disturbed during a peaceful night of slumber by strange banging sounds and her mother’s terrified scream. Faithful stuffed lamb and faith-filled Jesus flashlight in hand, she tip-toes to the staircase to see a grizzly sight worse than any monster under the bed. Only this monster is real. And he’s coming up the stairs after her now. The young girl, played by Caige Coulter, arms herself with Bible verses, the cross, and a whole lot of courage before facing the evil that awaits her. But is that going to be enough? Goodnight, Gracie also stars Zoe Simpson Dean, Brad Goodman, and Courtney Gains. Genre fans will instantly recognize Gains from Back to the Future, The Burbs, and Children of the Corn; and his performance here was effortlessly creepy and his best showing in years.

Begrudgingly going back to the thematics of Goodnight, Gracie, it definitely begs the question – does Jesus really save? How many truly devout people have prayed in a moment of need and been ignored? Is teaching blind religion to children a good idea? Those questions are, honestly, up in the air and I don’t think anyone has a straight answer, so instead I’ll focus on another theme in the movie – violence against children. Though we’re somewhat desensitized to it now, any murder, abuse, or act of violence against a child is just so, so wrong and it’s not a happy time whenever we see it on our various screens. What’s worse, even if the child survives, their innocence is completely shattered and the rest of their life has been changed and rerouted due to one unspeakable act of violence. Strong levels of suspense and realistic gore aside, Goodnight, Gracie is kind of sad when you look at it as an after effect. I mean, instances like this happen on a daily basis. That’s truly scary.

Goodnight, Gracie is under four minutes long, and I almost wonder if that’s too short. I wonder if it gives viewers enough content to take a bite out of. Despite my earlier reservations, I actually found myself wanting more. What led to these events? What happened after? Is there the possibility that they could happen again? Maybe that’s the problem with short films – they give you a sense of instant gratification and leave you pining for more. But, Hell, if that’s my only complaint about Goodnight, Gracie, then that means I thoroughly enjoyed my viewing and feel comfortable giving this two, bloody thumbs up. I want to give cinematographer Julia Swain and editor Kaitlin Hollingsworth some props before capping this one off by saying Goodnight, Gracie is an effectively scary nightmare based in reality. It’s not preachy, like I thought it would be, and features stunning camera work and above-average acting. Plus, Gains really did wow me.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)