Raging Grace

Raging Grace
Raging Grace
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Raging Grace is a powerful horror/thriller that deals with bias, racism, and colonialism faced by numerous immigrant laborers in today’s world. A British-Filipino writer/director Paris Zarcilla brings together effective jump scares and an immersive soundscape to show what it can be like to live as an immigrant.

A Filipino score uses traditional instruments allowing the audience to be soaked into the eerie atmosphere of the movies right away. With only a small group of complicated characters visible in this movie, Raging Grace holds an engrossing narrative teeming with countless unexpected twists that move the plot forward chaotically. Although it proceeds at a leisurely pace, its chilling ambiance and profound subject matter result in one of the more thought-provoking scary movies this year.

Does it rank among 2023’s best? This is difficult to determine considering how many notable horror films have been released this year such as Talk To Me, Evil Dead Rise, The Elderly, When Evil Lurks, In Flames, and Thanksgiving. However, it offers sufficient material to give audiences an exciting story which immerses them into the painful human experiences of life as well as prejudices against immigrants from laborers despite being dragged back by some slow parts and an overlong running time.

Joy (Max Eigenmann), protagonist of Raging Grace is a FIlipina cleaner who is undocumented trying desperately for survival so she takes care of her daughter named Grace (Jaeden Paige Boardilla). Joy has no fixed residence; therefore she spends nights in her customers’ houses while they are not at home just so that she can have somewhere to sleep under a roof.

Joy labors as a housekeeper until she finally becomes the caregiver for an elderly dying man escaping classism abuse she had always endured throughout the years. But soon enough all her painstaking efforts will threaten to collapse when darkness comes upon her way risking their lives too while her daughter is involved.

Raging Grace’s greatest strength lies in its use of typical horror film devices to highlight the real-life struggles of illegal immigrants. Raging Grace shows no mercy, almost compelling empathy upon viewers as it aims at making them have a taste of what being a migrant worker feels like. Very many awkward moments are presented by the montage where Joy moves from one house to another engaging with home owners. This mistreatment is appalling and dishonorable; it instantly creates an uncomfortable situation around, especially when the niece of rich old man shouts continuously towards joy about her Filipino adornments and cooking.

Like Bong Joon-ho’s Best Picture Winner Parasite (2019), Raging Grace shocks and terrifies its audiences through depicting the true life scenes with scathing accuracy, and the awful normalcy of classism. This movie understands deeply how people who are more privileged relate to individuals from lower social classes – caregivers, retail attendants, construction workers or simply migrants receive less treatment than they deserve. It is a hierarchical issue that has been in existence since time immemorial and still needs to be addressed; for his part Paris Zarcilla’s gritty disturbing film does more than enough to put audiences into victims’ shoes thus creating memories for their entire lives.

Raging Grace is driven by its characters and their never-ending secrets hence making it a story that will always take you by surprise. One cannot tell where the film is going or what the true intentions of its characters are from even as early as the first scene, even though it looks like your typical horror movie. A character’s behavior may lead to anticipation of one thing only for the film to throw a huge curveball that changes everything.

Joy’s continuous belittlement at the hands of everyone including her own daughter makes us sympathize with her, and audiences immediately fall in love with Joy as well. She is kind-hearted, caring, and softly intelligent, who wants nothing more than to take care of herself and her kids. Max Eigenmann in Joy’s role gives an engaging performance that captures her many trials convincingly. The two villains who feature prominently in this film are despicable; an old man (David Heyman) and Catherine (Leanne Best). They constantly despise Joy while they have kept life threatening secrets regarding their past, why they are there in that house.

Daughter Grace has the best development out of them all. Initially she is seen as a troublemaker who always resents her mother leading to awkward situations in which she finds herself unnecessarily. But eventually, Grace learns how much her mother has done for her when she risks keeping her daughter safe and sound around others. The film unexpectedly ends with a tender moment where we see their relationship blossom after overcoming many hurdles.

While Raging Grace may borrow heavily on familiar horror movie tropes; it does so without strain like making some of the most effective jump scares we have seen this year. This movie begins with a subject matter that might not seem to be leading up towards any expectation of jump scares before the first couple seconds completely change our minds. Things never lighten up thereafter but this movie shines through its atmosphere. Zarcilla confines Raging Grace within a 4:3 aspect ratio that creates a claustrophobic and isolated frame reflecting Joy’s oppression. In addition to this, the use of native Filipino instruments is a smart move as it further connects us with Joy while also building fear and anticipation. It is only one example of how intelligent and culturally relevant, yet universally moving this film is.

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