Synopsis: When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
Stars: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Director: Julia Ducournau
Running Length: 99 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Usually, if a movie features well-prepared food with sumptuous ingredients people will tell you to go in with a full-stomach to avoid it growling too much at the sights of such a feast. I’d advise anyone seeing Raw to be absolutely, positively sure your stomach is free from any contents and to certainly avoid eating while watching. After a busy day where I forgot to eat lunch, I made the mistake of firing up this French horror film while eating dinner and that was a mistake. A big mistake.
Joining her older sister (Ella Rumpf) at a prestigious veterinary college in Belgium, Justine (a wildly game Garance Marillier) is plunged into the school’s storied hazing rituals which make the drinking challenges in 2016’s Goat look like a tea party. Naïve and very vegetarian, Justine gets no breaks for being the sister of an upperclassmen, eventually being forced to consume a raw rabbit kidney much to her own horror. Developing an unsightly skin rash and nursing an increasingly insatiable for uncooked meat, Justine transforms into a flesh-eater not above eating a crudely amputated finger of a similarly cannibalistic loved one. As the hunger grows so does the competition between sisters as they each set sights on Justine’s bisexual roommate (Rabah Nait Oufella) who may turn out to be satisfying on more than one level.
Writer/director Julia Ducournau’s debut is a bold and bloody feature with a feminist streak amidst the gore. While it falters around the mid-point and never quite makes it back up the hill, it has a clever ending and go-for-broke performances that make sure it’s never boring. Excessive in every sense, Ducournau takes multiple cues from Italian horror-master Dario Argento in the way she uses color and light to create some seriously atmospheric sequences.
If you have your ear to the film festival circuit, you may have heard how the graphic violence in Raw was enough to cause audience members to pass out and upchuck their popcorn and Jujubes. Safe to say that if you’re inclined to heave at the sight of flesh being gnawed at this isn’t the movie for you. While I did look away a few times (‘hairball’ is all I’ll say…you’ve been warned) and caught a few scenes through carefully splayed fingers, the bloody grisliness featured in Raw wasn’t enough for me to reach for my smelling salts or the remote to turn it off.
The extremity of the movie begins to wear and at times becomes too repetitive, but in a sea of zombie films and space alien features, Raw is a nice international reminder that horror doesn’t have to feature the undead or extraterrestrials to create a sense of dread. Sometimes our own bodies crave something that can scare us even more.