Raw is a 2017 Belgian-French horror film. Directed by Julia Ducournau (Mange) and starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf (Tiger Girl) and Rabah Nait Oufella (Girlhood). The film was first released at the Toronto International Film Festival, amidst reports of fainting due to the film’s graphic scenes.
The film follows teenager Justine (Marillier) as she attends her first week at veterinary school. A lifelong vegetarian, Justine becomes subject to the various hazing rituals orchestrated by the older students, including her sister Alexia (Rumpf). One particular task requires her to eat a raw rabbit kidney and, after initially being reluctant, the ritual soon awakens a strange desire for human flesh. As she struggles to conceal her metamorphosis from her roommate Adrien (Oufella), Justine discovers that she is not the only one with a taste for flesh and tries to make it to the end of freshers week without her secret being revealed.
Raw would have to considered one of the most impressive feature length debuts for any director in recent memory. The themes and ideas are actually pretty well worn in horror ie body horror as a metaphor for puberty, cannibal families and comparisons to Carrie (76), Ginger snaps (00) and We Are What We Are (10) are more than fair. Ducournau puts the French post modern spin on the premise, without going as far as the New Wave of French Extremism. Rather than gory, the film would be much better described as visceral in a way that has rarely been achieved since the heyday of David Cronenberg.
Equally as impressive in her feature length debut is young actor Marillier, throwing herself mentally and physically into the role of a teenager being tortured by her own desires and urges. The concept of a vegetarian becoming a cannibal is obviously a rich vein of irony and black comedy and Ducournau wisely peppers this style of humour throughout the script to give the audience a rest after some rather intense sequences. The film is visually stunning and a washed out palette is complimented by some jaw dropping wide angle shots which force the viewer to focus on the slightest of movements like a laser.
Raw doesn’t forge any new ground but it takes reliable horror tenets and weaves them together in a eye wateringly intense experience that you’re not likely to forget soon. As one of the new wave of female directors forcing their way into a male dominated genre, Ducournau certainly has a bright future and has crafted a film of the year candidate on her first attempt.
5 Stars *****
What did you think of Raw? Did you find the film intense?