Raw: this is the movie that had audience members fainting when it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. This is the movie that apparently had LA cinemas handing out sick bags. Have you got what it takes to sit through the grisliest film of 2017 so far?
Think Carrie crossed with the films of David Cronenberg, such as The Fly, and you’ll get some idea of what type of horror awaits in Raw. So yes, the squeamish should steer clear, but whether you like horror films or not, Raw is likely to be the one of the most visually stunning films you’ll see this year. It grabs you with its constant sense of dread and mystery, yet there is no clear villain.
We follow Justine (Garance Mariller), a student starting her first year on a veterinary course. Her welcome to university is pretty brutal, as every newcomer is put through gruelling initiation tasks, like being drenched in animal blood and having to eat raw meat. Justine has been raised a strict vegetarian her whole life, so eating meat is a big no-no.
Her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is also at the university and according to her, taking a taste of bodily organs during your first week on campus is the done thing. Justine wants to fit in, so she’s more or less forced into it. Turns out, she kind of like it. Maybe a little too much, because she starts craving more and more of that raw meat. She’s got no time for veggie dishes and hummus anymore. Her new carnivorous cravings have taken over. She starts sneaking bites of chicken breast and other meat, but that won’t do the job forever. What she really craves is human flesh and her hunger keeps on growing.
At the same time, Justine is finding out who she is and exploring her sexuality. I loved how this film is a coming-of-age story, that just happens to have a girl turning into a cannibal. I thought the whole ‘away-from-home’ transformation that Justine undergoes was very clever. At heart, this is classic horror where the prey become the predator. But I can’t think of any other film that mixes coming-of-age with cannibalism, so that’s the film’s main selling point and its spot of originality.
There’s never a suggestion that Justine is supernatural, which I actually found quite refreshing. This film could have easily been written as a vampire story, with its themes of sex and transformation, so I’m glad it doesn’t go down that (boring) road.
There isn’t a dull moment in Raw. Often, the film hides horrors that take place in-between scenes, only for it to be revealed later on. A great technique that I thought worked really well, ensuring for constant surprises. So, the filmmaking and the way the film is structured is impressive and completely absorbing. Then there’s the creepily engaging and physical performances by Mariller and Rumpf. You’ll struggle to find characters more flawed than the two these actresses play. They’re both sympathetic deviants, very different from the “normal” leads you see in a film.
Raw is nasty and grim, but it’s nowhere near as gory as the Saw and Hostel films. But the key difference here is that the gore in Raw, is strategic, not sensationalist and only there when it needs to be. When it does come, it’s a real feasting. As a whole, the film is merciless and I think its intensity makes for a messy viewing experience at times. It does come across as uneven, especially in the latter stages of the film, but it never loses its way.
This is a top class horror about a girl’s descent into cannibalism. It’s exciting, unnerving and unforgettable, offering a female perspective on a monstrous taboo. Justine might be fresh meat on campus, but she likes her own meat RAW!
Check out the trailer below.
Directed and written by: Julia Ducournau
Stars: Garance Mariller, Ella Rumf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Distributors: Wild Bunch (France), Focus World (International)
Run Time: 99 minutes
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