DIR/WRI: Julia Ducournau • PRO: Jean des Forêts • DOP: Ruben Impens • ED: Jean-Christophe Bouzy • DES: Laurie Colson • MUS: Jim Williams • CAST: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
The most bizarre (and squeam-inducing) moment in Raw is during one of the film’s many debauchery-filled party scenes when a young lady starts tongue-kissing (for want of a better word) the eye of a young man. The camera lingers, and I asked myself what the heck was going on. Thinking about it further, this moment perfectly encapsulates my experience of the movie. Just like the young gentleman, I too was having weird stuff done to my eyes, and I had little idea how I was supposed to feel about it.
Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw is a coming-of-age French-Belgian horror in which the meat is tender, even is the story is not. A strict vegetarian, Justine (Garance Marillier) feels like a fish out of water during her first week of veterinary school. The hazing, which each freshman class has to endure, includes being forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys: an act which causes her to question her own limits, specifically relating to her appetite. Finding it difficult to make friends outside of her roommate Adrian (Rabah Nait Oufella), Justine reaches out to her elder sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), a sophomore who tries to teach her how to fit in with the university’s extreme party lifestyle. However, Justine’s ever-increasing craving for raw meat serves to alienate her further from the student body, and causes her to resort to desperate measures.
Trying to quantify Raw is in fact rather difficult, as it seems to be trying to be the everyman of the cannibal genre. Thankfully, Marillier’s performance brings significant relate-ability to a character that is at times too enigmatic for the film’s own good. Supposedly Justine is an exceptionally intelligent student, for example, but little of this gets across. Thankfully, however, there is more than enough over-the-top gore and general madness to keep one entertained. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Raw came out in the same year as The Neon Demon, a film with a similar if somewhat more extreme aesthetic, as Raw is visually impressive in its own right.
While much like the eye-licking, I’m not entirely sure what Raw was intending to convey – veterinarians are evil? Vegetarians are liars? College students are jerks? – but unlike the eye-licking, its lack of direction is far from a deal-breaker with this fun body-horror romp. Plus, when,in a film about consuming human flesh, the most painful-looking sequence comes from an attempted Brazilian, you know the film is doing something right.
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Raw is released 7th April 2017