When a movie professes to “make people faint,” you have to take it with a pinch of salt. After all, PR and marketing leap on these words like a feverish young woman leaps on a succulent young man. They are buzzwords. “SHOCKING” it’ll read on the poster. “INFAMOUSLY DISGUSTING. YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT.” All the while, knowing that horror fans will line up in their hundreds to get a taste.
With French horror film Raw, those words are a seasoning – and absolutely do not do the final meal justice.
Raw revolves around a vegetarian trainee vet who has left the protective bubble of her parents to follow in their footsteps and that of her older sisters. Whilst at the institute, she undergoes a brutal hazing ritual and is forced to consume meat. This sets off something of an unusual craving inside her where she longs for human flesh. Battered by her new love of flesh, Justine has to navigate the turmoil of Uni life whilst also eating her fellow students…
Raw is an intense and spectacular piece of cinema that will sit queasily in your stomach for an almightily long time. Whilst there are movies with more than enough grim things on display, Raw presents a detailed and realistic presentation of cannibalism in all its gruesome detail.
Director Julia Ducournau presents a terrific film with evocative images that those with the steeliest disposition will struggle with. But what elevates Raw above the usual “shock” garb – that sees red stuff splashed around on screen for mere titillation – is that Ducournau attaches themes and meaning to Justine’s story and character, delving into the symbolic with a hefty bite. Here, the cannibalism serves as a coming of age story: A young woman on the cusp of adulthood is awakened when she has left her suffocating family background and finds herself. It’s even a story that we ourselves have lived through, though I doubt any of us have suckled on the flesh of our flatmate in a carnivorous manner, rather than sexual.
Garance Marillier encompasses all of Ducournau’s weaving with a rather brilliant charm. As the timid and tiny Justine, you genuinely believe her journey. As someone who is battling against an inner compulsion to satisfy every need, her transformation from shy to cannibalistic beast is triumphantly portrayed in Marillier’s work here, setting a high-precedent for the young, upcoming actress.
Ducournau delights with palpable and juicy sentiments. It is a layered movie that works by peeling back the skin, chewing through the fat, and hitting the bone with astute realism and compelling imagery. While you may laugh, and you’ll definitely squirm, you’ll be haunted by what you’ve seen in a somewhat gleeful way. You’ll want to see it again – and you won’t, all at the same time. It’s an exposed nerve that won’t stop aching because you won’t stop running your tongue over it.
It’s delightful. It’s disgusting. It’s definitely…raw.