Raw (or Grave) is French director Julia Ducournau’s first feature-length film; it currently holds a 7.0 on IMDb, and a 90% on the tomatometer. The film won the FIPRESCI prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and reportedly caused audience members to pass out and vomit during the TIFF Midnight Madness screening due to it’s graphic content. I remember hearing this back in late 2016, and while I try to not feed into hype like this too much, I couldn’t help myself. Cannibal sexual awakening story? Sounds like my kind of movie. After finally viewing the film this year, I have to say it is not all it’s hyped up to be. Raw is not the disgusting gore fest it was rumored to be, and I’m honestly surprised anyone who fainted during this made it through any other Midnight Madness films. That being said, I was not disappointed. In fact, Raw may be one of the best films I’ve seen in some time.
Raw follows Justine (Garance Marillier), a “rookie” at a veterinary school that her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) attends as well, being a year ahead in the program. Justine is a vegetarian, but after a hazing ritual involving eating a raw rabbit kidney, she develops a palpable craving for meat and a disgusting rash that only seems to stay down if Justine satisfies her new craving.
After a waxing incident, Justine gets a taste for human flesh. Needless to say, she loves it. We learn that Alexia is a cannibal as well, and she teaches Justine a trick (more commonly used for insurance scams) to get a quick bite. Justine isn’t too appreciative, however, thus starting some sisterly drama. But Justine’s craving for flesh only grows as she begins lusting over her roommate, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella). The next day, Justine catches Alexia playing videogames with Adrien, and immediately becomes jealous and tells her to back off, only adding to the drama.
Later that night, Justine stumbles upon a party where a bucket of blue paint is immediately thrown on her, and she is shoved into a closet with a boy covered in yellow paint, being told not to come out until she’s green. Justine ends up biting off a good portion of the boy’s lower lip, learning sexual arousal brings out her most animalistic urges. Justine confides in Adrien, who, after witnessing what happened to the last guy, thinks it’s a good idea to hook up with her. This leads to a very strange sex scene, in which Justine completely loses herself, and attempts to take bites out of Adrien several times, finally biting her own arm when she climaxes. Charming.
After a very mean-spirited prank (if you can even call it that), and a standoff between Justine and Alexia, we get a heartbreaking finale and a neat little twist, which I will spoil none of here, because I think everyone should give this film a shot.
In my opinion, Raw does everything right. This thing has everything that I love in a film. The characters are well-acted and well-developed, with Marillier stealing the show as our virginal protagonist. The cinematography is stunning, the soundtrack is stellar (available on vinyl thanks to Deathwaltz records; you’re welcome), and the gore FX are practical. The story is original and refreshing, complete with great dialogue including a discussion on whether or not monkeys suffer the same as women when raped.
Strangely enough, the cannibalistic urges Justine experiences are almost relatable, and could very easily be a metaphor for any compulsion we may experience. Though heavy in symbolism, Raw is, at the heart, nothing more than a simple coming-of-age/sexual awakening story that happens to involve cannibalism. It’s a gem of a film, and I love it more and more with each viewing. It isn’t for everyone, though, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if most horror fans aren’t as crazy about it as I am. Raw is currently available for streaming on Netflix, and on both DVD and Blu-ray through Monster Pictures.
I give Raw a 10/10
And if you dig this tasteful cannibal flick, check out the autocannibalism drama Eat, also available through Monster Pictures!
Watch a trailer for Raw here.