Film Review: Raw (2016)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ – 3/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 98 min. | Director: Julia Ducournau | Year: 2016.

What a strangely unique film. Raw is freaky, gory, retching and definitely raw! This film offers themes such as family relations, student life, sexual excesses and a strange meaty diet. It’s not per se your usual Hollywood horror film and therefore I can appreciate this distinctive take on horror.

Raw tells the story of Justine (Garance Marillier), who is about to follow her parents and her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) in their footsteps to become a veterinarian. She is a bright young student and a self-convinced vegetarian. But as a new student, she has to go through the same hazing ritual as her sister had to go through one year before her. Justine is forced to eat meat against her will, but it unleashes a strange crave in her for raw meat. Her diet slowly changes and it even begins to affect the relationship she has with her sister. If that wasn’t bad enough her new eating habits and strange craves cause her to end up in awkward sexual situations, fights, embarrassing moments and eventually there are several deaths. All of this makes her confused about herself, but in the end, she will discover a grave secret that will shed light to her bizarre cravings.

Raw is directed by Julia Ducournau and with this film, she makes an original debut. Her film won many prizes in London and Cannes and it caused strong reactions during the first screenings. The story of the film is essentially a coming-of-age concept as we see Justine commencing college, adjusting to college life and she literally goes through a hazing ritual. She also happens to be a virgin and of course being in college means that losing your virginity is on a student’s bucket list and everybody is practically having sex on campus. I felt that there was a hidden theme that links vegetarianism to carnivorism as two dualistic forces, where the first brings balance to Justine and the latter brings imbalance or better said; total madness. It could be that Justine’s journey reflects the madness and destruction that humanity’s craving for meat (unknowingly to most people) causes. If so that would be a very interesting take and hidden message. The film stars Ella Rumpf, Garance Marillier, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas.

Raw is stylistically filmed. It is obvious that a particular artistic aesthetic was chosen to embody this film. The film shots portray a very realistic feel, in general, but also to its French-Belgian region. Matching the weather, the shots reveal a coldness and a misty feeling that belongs to the autumn and winter seasons. It creates the perfect tone for a horror film and it fits with the darkness that awakens in Justine. The focus is largely directed to freaky, gory and retching moments. Blood is sucked, eyes are licked, fingers and legs are eaten and chewed on and dead bodies are played with. In comparison to American films, European films tend to reveal more sexual openness in films; Raw conforms to that expectation that people have of European films when it comes to that. Even though sex is presented as one of those casual college student occupations. It gets a rather animalistic take when Justine begins to suffer from her raw meat cravings while having her first sexual experience. Sex is used to convey the hunger and the madness that is growing inside of her, which I thought was executed in a gripping way. Lastly, I always think that French films have particular quirky traits that are part of their own universe. They often come up with funny unique ideas that I hardly encounter in other films.

I will say that this isn’t a super scary film, nor does it tread on the border of established horror genre tropes, but I think it is good to be aware that this was not the director’s intention. This film treats horror in its own way and it is a very French-Belgian style. Next to that, I don’t think you can call this a thriller film either because there isn’t much focus on suspense but more on drama. But if you love horror, gore, French and European films. This is definitely a recommendation. The gory moments, the drama and the sexual explorations will definitely make it worth watching.

In Dutch theatres as from the 27th of April.

All rights of this film and the pictures displayed are owned and reserved to the righful owners.

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