Nottingham’s beloved Mayhem Film Festival kicked off last night, with a packed out crowd of horror, sci-fi and cult cinema fanatics. Paris Zarcilla’s debut, Raging Grace opened the event, prefaced with a contextual video introduction from the director.
Joy (Max Eigenmann), is an undocumented Filipino cleaner in London, desperate to save enough money to buy a visa illegally. She moves from house to house, tending to the upper class, all the while hiding her brazen daughter, Grace (Jaeden Paige Boadilla) from her employers. With dreams of having their own home one day, they spend their nights sofa-surfing, unbeknownst to her employers. After a string of inconsistent jobs, without enough pay, Joy was offered a job in a secluded mansion owned by a terminally ill, bed-bound Mr Garett (David Hayman). His niece, Katherine (Leanne Best) will provide Joy with her own en-suite room, and a promise of £1k a week, for six weeks. It’s a no brainer; she just has to keep Grace hidden for six weeks, a mean feat given her curious nature.
Subject to an array of racial put-downs, the film highlights an imbalance of respect the BIPOC community faces, while simply doing their job. Paris explains the film to be a direct response to the hate the Asian population faced, in the midst of Covid-19. The relationship between Katherine and Joy particularly highlights this divided notion, that the rich white woman is superior, even to the pettiness of food. She heaves at the smell of Joy’s traditional cooking, explaining in a childlike manner, she only wants “simple” food and requests a cheese sandwich. It portrays this uncomfortableness so overtly, it’s impossible to miss why this social issue is important.
When Katherine leaves for a trip for a few days, Joy is put in charge of administering Mr Garrett’s medicine. In her past life, Joy worked in healthcare, so alongside her sharp-witted daughter, she quickly realises all is not what it seems. Raging Grace uses gothic horror elements to unveil a family secret, leaving Joy stuck in the middle, and increasingly worried for Grace’s safety.
There’s no doubt this film hits the spot with its spookiness, the ending in particular throws you into a cavern of horrors. Though, it has to be said, that this ‘everything at once’ approach to finish felt a little rushed and out of place. Beforehand, the film kept a relatively slow pace. It was subtle, conveying the gothic themes naturally through setting, costumes and movement, which was one of its greatest strengths. It was a shame that this became slightly lost at the climax, though not so much to negate from its earlier assets. Above all, it is a socially aware and chilling film that reignites the traditional gothic horror genre, to reflect immoral modernity.
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