The immigrant and low SES horror film continues to gain traction in recent years. In the past few years, Nanny and His House were among the best films of the year, and struck to the heart of anxiety of moving to a new world. Director Paris Zarcilla shows a ton of potential with Raging Grace. Zarcilla’s feature debut thrills, pushing the story to stretch the tension as tight as possible. The strong debut sticks with you.
Joy (Max Eigenmann) works job to job as an undocumented worker. The issues continue to pile up, while her daughter Grace (Jaeden Paige Boadilla) wants to learn more about her father. Joy is given five weeks to assemble $5000 for a hacker to give her naturalization papers. Suddenly, an opportunity opens up to take care of Mr. Garrett (David Haymen) for $1000 a week. Yet Mr. Garrett’s niece Katherine (Leanne Best) seems to be hiding something about the house and her uncle.
Zarcilla builds the story around the literal appropriation of culture and colonialism in a very literal way. Pushing our protagonist to hide her child throughout the story keeps the audience engaged. Yet the way that other characters wish to gain control over our protagonists, and use them for their own purposes, becomes chilling. There are many moments throughout western culture where an immigrant has lost their connection to their child. None of these circumstances are acceptable. Zarcilla uses this fear to seed us with doubt every step of the way.
The performances from Eigenmann and Boadilla breathe life into Raging Grace from the onset. Eigenmann brings unique energy to the film. She portrays a person exhausting from working long hours, but needing to keep alert at every second. Having known immigrant families my whole life, it was impossible to not see the women raising children to happy lives in these moments.
Boadilla brings out the procousious nature of her character, but she’s also far more wordly than one might expect. Showing maturity beyond her years also rings as authentic. Those under constant danger and stress are forced to grow up the fastest, and Boadilla brings that to the role.
These two warm, and empathetic roles stand in stark contrast to both Haymen and Best. They bring a scary intensity to their roles that immediately puts the audience on edge. Best plays the stereotype of the older woman who consistently drops micro aggressions. Yet it’s Haymen’s sinister performance that adds an air of colonial violence that hangs over the film.
With good scares and political commentary, Raging Grace delivers as a very powerful statement. As the stories of undocumented workers continue to come to light, there’s power in understanding the forces that seek to hold them back. Oppression does not take one face, but systemically attacks from many places. Raging Grace hopes to restore some balance to the equation.