Published on January 3rd, 2021 | by Richard Gary0
We Still Say Grace
We Still Say Grace is a film that dramatized the way in which religion can create megalomaniacs that take things so far it becomes horror.
As I have posited before, there is no one scarier than a human monster; more than a supernatural creature to “tear your soul apart,” and I don’t mean humanoid slashers with machetes that cannot be killed (or will not stay dead), but “Furthermore, the hearts of men are full of evil and madness while they are alive…” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
To be more specific, nothing is scarier to me than a human who believes they are backed by God and therefore are among the righteous, and have the duty to obey what they consider what God has “spoken” to them.
Bruce Davison plays Harold, the “spirited” super-Christian patriarch of his family. This quartet includes his wife, Betty (Arianne Zucker), devoted older teenager Sarah (Rita Volk), and the protagonist of the story, younger and unsure Maggie (Molly Taylor). They live in an isolated farm house that looks like it is always filled with either smoke (candles?) or dust. The women wear old-fashioned and modest clothing. This is a close knit family… very knit. Essentially, they are a four-person cult.
Like Jim Jones, Harold believes that his calling includes at some point poisoning his family, supposedly to prove their trust in their bloodthirsty god (must be Old Testament). While Betty is obedient but hesitant, Sarah is ready, and Maggie is questioning and scared. Things are about to take a turn for the even stranger with the arrival of three dudes of varied ethnicities whose car has blown a couple of tires down the road from our story locus. They approach the house without realizing the insanity inside, and the unclear and present danger to their bodies and souls. So ya don’t get all worked up, this is only just over 10 minutes into the feature. You know things are going to go south.
Our little miss Maggie sees the trio – Fisher (Dallas Hart), Randy (Frankie Wolf), and the Biblically named yet profane Luke (Xavier J. Watson) – as a possible means of escaping an early dirt bed. In a house whose worn furnishings and appliances appear to be from the 1970s, along with the fatherly threat of eternal peace, it is no surprise there’s a desire to leave Maggie’s farm (sorry…).
Now, as for the guys who are on their road-trip-across-the-country summer before college, well, for a couple of them, I need to ask, who raised these kids? When someone invites you into their house, even if you don’t believe what they believe, you show some respect. t I have been able to sit through grace before supper without squirming. It’s a matter of respect; of course, it’s Fisher, the white guy, who has the most manners and at least tries to be courteous. That bothered me on a few levels, but let’s move on.
Harold comes across as quite a benign, God-lovin’ man, who won’t tolerate drink (other than Sabbath wine) such as beer, and bristles at cursing, which he considers non-Christian. And you don’t wanna be non-Christian around this guy. Davison plays him to the hilt, with, at first, some befuddlement and seemingly kindness and then a deep anger towards these strangers who invade his sacred space (the farm) that has repercussions with what he views as his minion (i.e., his family).
While tensions rise, Fisher is caught between being loyal to his friends and not wanting to disrespect his hosts, thereby being placed in the middle, while Maggie has her eyes on him. While the tension slowly builds although always present like a steady beat, around the halfway point, the fanaticism ramps up and hits the fan.
The entire cast is stellar, as I have already discussed with Davison, but Zucker definitely deserves a notice. She plays her role to nuanced perfection. It is also worth noting that even with the action being sporadic, the tension is, as I said, always present. It is beautifully written with lots of surprises and a few legitimate jump scares. There is little blood other than a couple of scenes, but a few of the deaths are sometimes traumatic and somewhat unpredictable (with a few exceptions). Also noteworthy is the imagery, such as the stilted and musty air and the sepia filter tones used indoors, and sometimes it’s just glorious, including a scene near the end with Davison and a fire behind him (not going to give details) that is just stunning.
The film is not anti-Christian, but more pointing out a mindset that sometimes religion causes to envelop certain megalomaniacal types. This is an incredibly well-done film.