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Raging Grace – FrightFest 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read
Max Eigenmann as Joy in Raging Grace

Courtesy of Blue Finch Film Releasing

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

After swiping SXSW's narrative grand jury award, 's haunting first feature received its English premiere at this year's .

Raging Grace follows Joy (), an undocumented Filipina immigrant who has come to the UK in search of a better life for her and her daughter Grace (). She struggles to make ends meet while working as a cleaner for various wealthy families, hiding out in their homes when they are away, or sleeping in the service room of a run-down block of flats. Desperate to scrape together the cash to fund the citizenship documentation she needs, she takes a job from the extremely wealthy yet erratic Katherine () to care for her ailing uncle Mr Garrett (). The position pays well and guarantees a roof over their heads, however, Joy soon realises that the deal is too good to be true.

Raging Grace balances its stark socio-political messaging with plenty of familiar scares to create a tense, brooding haunted house , but not as you may know it. The terror of the film comes from its honesty as it highlights how tough life can be for immigrants. Raging Grace shows how they can often become indebted to a privileged ruling class which they work under tirelessly, to the point that they become less like free individuals and more humans enslaved to their employees while striving towards a better life. This existence proves an effective catalyst for horror as it presents us with the stark reality that everyday life can far outweigh any traditional scares a film can show.

Max Eigenmann as Joy in Raging Grace
Courtesy of Blue Finch Film Releasing

However, genre fans are still treated to plenty of jump scares and tense, borderline ridiculous cat-and-mouse interactions that at times threaten to derail the dark, carefully constructed relationships and storylines, but are pulled back at just the right time. The effect is that Raging Grace becomes more of a tense tongue-in-cheek satire than a traditional horror or thriller film, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

The hair-raising atmosphere of Raging Grace hinges on the performances from its ensemble cast, with Max Eigenmann giving an emotive performance as Joy as she goes all-in as a woman desperately trying to provide a better life for Grace, expertly played by Jaeden Paige Boadilla. Leanne Best and David Hayman as Katherine and Mr Garrett also impress as Joy's employers, gradually unraveling before our eyes as their secrets are revealed.

While the twisty thriller can become clunky and overwrought with revelations in its third act, Zarcilla effectively ramps up the tension as Joy and Grace become ensnared in a dangerous situation they find harder to claw their way out of. Packed full of sharp performances and shocking revelations, Raging Grace highlights the hardships of life for immigrants in a nail-biting blend of horror tropes and social criticism.

Raging Grace had its English premiere at FrightFest on August 27.