“Open up. You’ll be happy you did it.”
Remember the audaciousness of Ginger Snaps? Now add in the artistic craftsmanship of It Follows. Now throw in cannibalism. Now you’ve got Raw.
There are very few filmmakers who can really pull off a blend of genres, but in her feature debut, Julia Ducournau does just that. Raw is an enthralling, incisive, and often hilarious horror mixtape of sorts. It seems to draw from common tropes of growing up expressed in agreeably subtle metaphors. But what makes Raw an uncommon, bracing experience is its unapologetic attitude and artistic fortitude.
We begin with shy veterinary school freshman Justine (Garance Marillier) trying to navigate an odd hazing ritual through an incredible long take of the craziest veterinary school party ever. Justine eventually catches up with her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who seems to be an oddball among a whole school of oddballs.
Their sisterly bond is well-established from these early moments. Alexia is somewhat of a black sheep in the family, and Justine struggles at first to catch up with her devilish demeanor.
The important thing to note here is that they both started out college as vegetarians. This becomes an effective metaphor once Justine is pushed past the limits of her maturity and begins to engorge herself on, well, meat.
Raw first expresses its chosen horror trope in a surprisingly charming moment between the two sisters. Alexia is trying to help Justine with some specifically feminine issues when it all goes terribly awry. This flows into a horror film with social consciousness which doesn’t force the issue, but seamlessly blends them into its already charming and fascinating character study.
Ducournau’s film is certainly shocking, but it isn’t anywhere near empty-headed. It’s wise beyond its director’s experience, it’s funny, it’s enthralling, and it continues in today’s blooming renaissance of horror with heart and high intelligence.
This is one of my shorter reviews because I genuinely want you to discover this film’s distinct powers of entertainment for yourself. Unless you are weak of stomach. Raw gives you quite a lot to chew on, but please don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Raw = A+
P.S.: Shout-out to Jim Williams, whose score for Raw echoes the movie’s shock-and-sentiment vibes by blending acoustic guitar riffs with minor-key organ and violin melodies.
– George Napper