December 8, 2023 / Vortex Media
Starring: David Hayman, Leanne Best
Directed By: Paris Zarcilla
When a position opens up caring for a terminally ill British aristocrat in his secluded mansion, Joy (Maxine Eigenman) jumps at the opportunity. To an undocumented Filipino woman with a mischievous, equally undocumented daughter, Grace, it sounds like the perfect gig. But very soon, Joy and her daughter Grace start to realize everything is not as it seems.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
Raging Grace has some solid ideas at play that sadly do not reach their true potential, making what could have been a truly chilling thriller, into an entertaining enough yet generic story that loses steam before it reaches its climax.
In recent years, social horror and thrillers have been on the rise with popular films such as Get Out and Parasite, taking audiences on unsettling journeys that may not be traditional horror stories, but will nonetheless leave them shaken by the time the credits begin rolling. Making his feature film directorial debut, having earlier picked up awards for this film at South By SouthWest earlier this year, Paris Zarcilla strives to make the next social horror film that will leave audiences speechless as he combines traditional horror elements with the challenges faced by undocumented Filipinos in the United Kingdom. There is no denying that he is playing with some great ideas in the film, but they did not fully come together in the film’s latter half, failing to create the unsettling experience audiences are looking for from films in this subgenre.
Trying to make enough money to buy documentation for her daughter and herself to become citizens of the United Kingdom, Joy takes a new job as a care-worker for a terminally ill older man with no speech capabilities. While the job starts off without much excitement, Joy quickly discovers that there is something more sinister happening in the house of her new employer, which begins to threaten to destroy everything that she has worked towards for her and her daughter.
The first half of the film does a wonderful job setting up the tension filled atmosphere as Joy begins her new job. It’s evident from her first meeting with her new employer and his niece that there is something not right with the situation, which while making it clear what the first twist in the story to come is, creates an intriguing first half of the film. Once the first twist, yet obvious, is revealed, the film begins to grow ambitiously. After this twist, the social elements are pulled in, while also dabbling with true horror elements, and it’s a bit much for Zarcilla to juggle with a shorter run time. It feels rushed as the film quickly races through the many plot points that are introduced in the second half, while also having a bonkers climactic sequence. The story is no doubt entertaining, but it fails to truly stick the landing as the thematic nuances of the ideas are lost as the story races to its conclusion. The writing shows promise for Zarcilla as having great ideas for stories to tell, this film merely just needed more time to bring these ideas to fruition.
While the story does not fully stick the landing, the cast does a great job to make Raging Grace an enticing watch. Max Eigenmann comfortably carries the film as Joy, ensuring that the audience experiences both her struggle to make a life for her and her daughter, as well as the severity of the situation she unexpectedly finds herself in. Leanne Best and David Hayman both understand perfectly what is required for their characters and deliver exactly that, consistently stealing their scenes throughout the film, while young Jaeden Paige Boadilla has some great on screen chemistry with her adult co-stars.
There are some great ideas at play in Raging Grace, and while the film has promise, it does not fully stick the landing. Without a doubt Paris Zarcilla proves himself an exciting storyteller with a promising future, but the restraints of the film’s runtime prevent everything he is playing with in Raging Grace from becoming the unforgettable social thriller it was striving to be despite some great work from the film’s cast.