Reviews: working up an appetite for horror with Raw
Directed by Julia Ducournau,
Starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
In this French horror/drama, Justine is about to head off to veterinary school. She has been raised to be vegetarian through her whole life, a way of life that is strictly monitored by her whole family. Mother, father, sister, and the young Justine live without eating meat. Then in Vet School, during a set of initiation and hazing rituals, she is forced to eat what we are lead to believe is raw rabbit liver or kidneys. This leads Justine to start to develop a taste for meat;, first different cooked meats and then into, let us just say, ‘exotic’ meats.
This is hard to call a pure horror, it’s more an exaggeration of something I saw with a friend in college myself. He had been raised in a family which was pure veggie, no meat, they wore animal products though, so skinning the creatures were fine, just not the meat. He got to college and had a breakfast roll, someone, I don’t know who, put one in front of him and he devoured it. For those who don’t know the breakfast roll is bacon, sausage, black/white pudding, and egg, all in a foot long bread roll. If you haven’t tried one it’s worth it, a whole day’s worth of meals in one (heart-attack included free of charge). Let’s just say that after this experience my friend went a bit mad on bacon and burgers. I don’t know if he ever told his family, like the secret smoker, but he seemed happy.
Anyway Justine joins her sister in what seems to be the family business in learning to be a vet. In the school there is this maniac-style hazing initiation that would put American colleges to shame. When she has to try the secret meat everything just explodes; she’s trying her best to fit in, but this urge for the meat just overwhelms her. She hides it the best that she can, but she soon needs more different meats. It develops into human flesh and when her sister reveals a similar fetish for the extreme it leads to a bonding that they have never experienced before.
It’s hard to call this a horror as such, although it certainly has horror elements; it’s hard to call it a family drama too though, it falls between the cracks to that place where true, bloody disgusting genius entertainment is born. The cast all give this wonderfully natural performances as though we’re in the middle of the French drama that I get to watch so much of this time of year. Sometimes you can feel performers in a horror film being horror film actors rather than how they act in horror films. Here it’s all about bringing the shock of the film into a realm of reality.
The Writer/Director Julia Ducournau shows a maturity that directors who are deep into their careers cannot show. She knows she can show you the gross, and at times she does, but also wants to make sure that you care about the world around the main characters. For some it’s going to be the scene with the hair, for me it was the raw chicken, for others the finger; I guess what I’m trying to say is that there will be something for everyone to gross you out. Garance Marillier as Justine kept reminding me of Maisie Williams, that young powerhouse of a performance that sets her apart from the rest of the cast. Granted the film stays mostly with her, so she has to be that good. Justine is as horrified as the audience as she develops her strange fixation.
This film is going to push the taste level, pardon the pun, of each audience that ventures to see it. Even during our press screening one of the faithful reviewers couldn’t hack it. But for a withered old reviewer like yours truly this is a great night’s viewing at any time. It’s gross, bloody disgusting brilliance, and right up my street. I look forward to bringing my nieces to see this one, not the younger ones, but the adults who are just entering college, I’ve explained it to them already and their faces were brilliant. Can’t wait to watch them watch this hugely entertaining feature about the dangers of be a vegetarian. I always knew there were dangers to veggies.