Saturday, July 02, 2016

NYAFF ’16: Grace

Who could ever expect the combination of the internet, fetishism, and teenage jealousy would end so badly? Like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects the ruthlessness of this former social media/cosplay idol turned stark raving mad serial killer. Being cuter than her is a dangerous proposition in Ornusa Donsawai & Pun Homchuen’s grisly Grace (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.

This monster was not born, she was forged by the abuse and humiliation we witness in flashbacks. On the other hand, reigning internet idol Care really seems to be the sweet kid she presents herself to be. There is a reason why her BFF/webmaster Ple is so loyal to her. Unfortunately, that rubs Grace (formerly Koi) the wrong way. After murdering a platonic guy pal, Care will torment the two teenagers, goading Jack, her pervy computer geek protector to commit some absolutely heinous acts.

There is no getting around the rough violence of Grace. By the same token, there is no missing the spectacular fireworks unleashed by Apinya Sakuljaroensuk as Grace. She might just be the horror villainess of our age. Her meltdowns are a thing to behold, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch her go to work on Care and Ple. On the other side of the coin, Napasasi Surawan and Hataichat Eurkittiroj just look distressingly distressed as Care and Ple, respectively.

By its nature, this film is just a tricky act to pull off. Frankly, the sadistic cruelty meted out is just no fun whatsoever. Yet, if Donsawai & Homchuen had watered it down to any extent, the film might have flirted with kitsch. They clearly decided to err on the side of the courage of their convictions. As a result, nobody can question their artistic integrity or the earnestness of their critique of unfettered social media and Millennial nihilism. Yet, like the Mo Brothers’ Killers, Grace will just wear you down.

Regardless, Grace is heck of a calling card for Donsawai & Homchuen, Sakuljaroensuk, and the rest of the youthful cast, just as Killers was for the Mo’s. It might just be too much of a potent thing. Recommended with reservations for hardy horror fans, Grace screens tomorrow (7/3) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.