Dir. Julia Ducournau (2016)
A vegetarian veterinary student goes to college and discovers that she really, really likes meat…
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I’m a huge fan of the New French Extremity movement, and this is a more recent entry that I had not gotten a chance to watch yet. Filled with disorienting camerawork and some excellent gore, as well as its socially conscious commentary on the development of young girls into women, Raw is an excellent entry into the genre from a new up-and-coming filmmaker. The movie centers around a young veterinary student who has grown up in a vegetarian family her entire life. When she goes off to the same college her family has attended, it turns out that some of their hazing rituals involve forcing the students to eat meat, as well as get the full Carrie treatment with buckets of blood being dumped onto them from atop the veterinary building.
Man, that was offal. Hah, get it? Offal!
Everyone who has been to college has experienced some of what Justine, our new girl, experiences. It’s a brand new location, new faces, and it’s all got this air of uncomfortability that you either have to deal with or drop out altogether. I have many friends who have just flat-out not been able to handle it at their school, whether they succumbed to loneliness, hesitation to change, or just inability to keep up with the schedule without the constraints and structure of living with their families. Combine to all of these struggles the added pressure of a high-difficulty major, joining what is essentially a fraternity, and new changes to your set-in-stone ethical beliefs, and you could imagine how difficult that would be for anyone.
The movie is filled to the brim with moody shots of angsty young adults, and by the time the blood starts flowing, the audience is fully enveloped in the sickness present among the students. As Justine develops into the brooding young woman she becomes, she starts to experiment with more explicit music, more provocative clothes, and an awkward attitude of sexiness that only someone exploring their newfound sexuality (and taste for human flesh) can exhibit. She also listens to some of the dirtiest songs I’ve ever heard, straight-up French Horrorcore. The rest of the film is brilliant New French Extremity goodness, and manages to attain the same quality as the previous efforts of the genre. There are some seriously uncomfortable scenes in the film, including an unfortunate waxing incident and a paint party with some unforeseen consequences.
Man, the Blue Man Group show was fucking wild…
The feminist underpinning is paramount to the film’s message, and like most films of the French Extremity movement, the message is as important as the plot. The burgeoning desire and unnatural attractions between Justine and her gay male roommate, finally consummated in an animalistic sexual experience, is darkly contrasted with her new taste for human flesh and the compulsions that she must attempt to control. After all, what is more animalistic than sex and cannibalism, and what’s more of an insult to self than a gay man being uncontrollably attracted to a woman? The film draws easy comparisons to other works both in form (American Mary) and substance (Ginger Snaps), but manages to surpass both in style and grace. The French know how to make movies, ya’ll. Ducournau is one of the “it” filmmakers of the moment, with her most recent film Titane tearing up the festival circuits, and it’s difficult to even imagine a film like Raw coming straight from the brain of a first-time filmmaker, yet here we are.
Who this movie is for: New French Extremity Fans, Horror fans of all shapes and sizes, People with special dietary needs
Bottom Line: I don’t know that I liked Raw enough to move it into my Top 10 New French Extremity list, but it’s a helluva film that will make you feel. What it makes you feel depends entirely on the viewer, as the movie elicits anything from rage and revulsion to sympathy and identification. Regardless of how it makes you feel in the end, there is so much here to discover that it entrenches itself firmly into the genre into which it is categorized. Raw is a brutal tour de force, and indicative of everything French Extremity should be. Absolutely stellar film from top to bottom, and a must-see for anyone who can stomach… the subtitles.