RAW is an unsettling film that gets under your skin and stays there like a terrible, tunnelling disease. Some of the early scenes are the most compelling as Justine (Garance Marillier) joins her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) at veterinary college. The newbie is thrown into a radical hazing that provides both the trigger and the horrific backdrop for everything to come. Right from the opening, this is a disrupted world of violent disorder where responsible adults have little presence and zero power over the young.
Over an unflinching 99mins, we see Justine turn from naive vegetarian to snarling, meat-ripping animal. Julia Ducournau’s camera shows the full horror of her descent, one virtuoso sequence revealing Justine’s newfound hunger in all its gristle-crunching glory. The initially dispassionate responses from her sibling to this and other atrocities compounds RAW’s Cronenbergian DNA, polluting the film world with an appetite for perverted carnality. Occasionally peppered with high-steaks humour, these sequences prompted audience gasps as well as giggles, giving rise to many an argument about the film’s merits that lasted long after the houselights came back on.
Despite its rock-solid tonal cohesion and wince-inducing shocks, Ducournau’s feature debut peaks too soon, leaving itself very little distance to travel come the final reel. When Justine’s shocking proclivities are exposed to the rest of the campus on social media, the storytelling stumbles, benumbed undergrads discarding the news as yesterday’s chip paper. Similarly, by the time the character’s fates are finalised, we too have already seen too much yet come to care too little. Last-minute plot revelations have that unsatisfactory feeling of a script coming to a neat end rather than a fully fleshed story being told.
IN MOVING PICTURES
- A new delivery of fresh undergraduate meat arrives at the abattoir, the half-dressed human animals forced to crawl on their hands and knees into the impending cacophony.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- Visit the official movie website.
- Fellow bloggers PAUL and FILM-MOMATIC rather liked it.
- INDIEWIRE gives good list of the history of cannibalism on film.
- For more modern meat munching, we’d pick WE ARE WHAT WE ARE. Start with the excellent Mexican original, SOMOS LO QUE HAY (2010) then follow it with Jim Mickle’s worthwhile North American remake (2013).
Featured images: RAW (2016).