During its limited release, Raw has already gained quite the reputation as the cannibal movie that caused some theaters to start handing out sick bags after a number of cinema-goers spewed in their seats during a screening, but there’s so much more to Julia Ducournau’s flick than gore.
Under its skin, Raw is a ravenous coming of age film like no other. The film follows vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) who’s thrown into the perilous freedom of veterinary school where the parties are excessive, the initiation games savage, and freshmen are expected to suffer whatever crazed antics the seniors plan for them from fear of being labeled an outcast.
Unfortunately for Justine, one of these customary trials involves gulping down a rabbit’s kidney. After pressure from her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), this breaking of her vegetarian ways leads to a series of further experimental delicacies which plunge her down a dark, cannibalistic spiral.
It sounds silly because it is.
The film is as much about humor as it is horror, often lacing together seriously stomach turning body horror immediately followed up with hilariously playful black humor. Whether it be an inopportune intrusion from the family dog or a friendly reminder that vet school can sometimes have you elbow deep in a farm animal’s backside, I was surprised at how funny the film actually is.
It’s this sporadic tonal shift which creates a sense of anarchic fun that makes the more shocking scenes easier to swallow while still maintaining a consistent cringe factor.
Seeing Raw at a dine-in film house in Downtown Brooklyn provided one of the most fun theater experiences I have ever been apart of. Watching people push away their plates of food as Justine’s eating habits escalated into absolute absurdity or seeing couples relinquish their grasp on each other as an invasive sequence showing Justine franticly scratching at her peeling skin unfolded on screen; it simply never got old. Every morsel of shocking imagery Raw dishes out is more outlandish than the last, giving the you just enough time to digest with a few jokes, before bracing yourself for the next course of intense body horror.
Anchoring Raw is two great performances from Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf, who keep their conflicting sister relationship as the beating heart between the ridiculous and grotesque. Amid the cannibalism, masturbation and animal butchery, there’s a twisted, celebration of primal youth at its core. And with it also comes a delicious display of a dangerous decent into degeneracy.
Its tonal combination won’t be for everyone, but for those who roll with its depravity and perverse humor, you’ll find one of the most memorable and wickedly brilliant film experiences of the year.