Raw  (2016)

Adapting to college life is tough. You're away from home for the first time, you're surrounded by strangers, you might party a bit too much, you find yourself hungering for human flesh...

Justine is being dropped off at college. She'll be joining her older sister at a veterinary school, the same one her parents attended. Her entire family is devoted to saving animals not only for their career, but also for their diet. During a pitstop on the drive to school, Justine's mother is furious when a hunk of meat is found in Justine's mashed potatoes. When we meet Justine's sister Alexia (who has already been at the college), things unravel a bit. There's a weird hazing ritual where freshmen are forced to eat the kidney of a rabbit. Justine protests, citing her vegetarianism. Alexia warns Justine to just conform and not be an outsider. Justine goes through with it, but the ingestion of meat has some serious side effects. Surrounded by animals, both dead and alive, raw flesh, blood...it all awakens something deep inside her.

Coinciding with her gustatory awakening is a sexual awakening. Justine starts off the movie rather timid, shy, quiet...but once the flip inside her is switched, the lust takes over. She loses inhibitions, combines pain and pleasure, hunger and horniness. It's been a while since I watched a French movie, and this made me remember why I love their horror stuff so much. There is a fine balance between sex and horror, an eroticism to the violence. It's not something like "Natural Born Killers" where murder turns them on, or some sort of straight BDSM stuff...it's more like tapping into the most primal urges in our lizard brain. We want to kill, eat, and f*ck; sometimes those urges overlap. Garance Millier plays the role of Justine perfectly, starting off as the prey but ending up a predator.

The body horror in this movie is extreme. I consider myself pretty desensitized, after watching a whole lot of weird, bloody, gory, twisted movies...but there were two solid moments that elicited a visceral reaction from me, one of which is making me gag just remembering it. No spoilers here, but it's the pure realism of the gore that makes it effective.

Watching this immediately made me want to see more from director Julia Ducournau and actresses Ella Rumpf and Garance Marillier. Luckily they're all relatively new on the scene, each with just a few movies to their credits so I can enjoy everything they've done quickly.

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Raw" an 8 out of 10.




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