Overview: A young woman goes to veterinary college and finds the hazing rituals are having an adverse effect on her diet. Focus World; 2016; Rated R; 99 minutes.
Horror: The best horror movies often combine two elements, one essentially benign and one dangerous. These movies succeed by making both elements appealing through skilled writing, putting them together so that two rights make even more right. For example, the outstanding Green Room mixes the plight of a poor, unsigned band with the violence of being trapped by Neo-Nazis. The Exorcist is about a loss of faith and also demonic possession, Dawn of the Dead is about zombies and rampant consumerism, It Follows is about sexuality and also an unstoppable force of evil. Raw is about college and cannibalism. Remove the cannibalism and it’s still a very good college movie, remove the college and it’s still a very good horror movie.
Brave: Raw is anchored by Garance Marillier’s incredibly brave performance. She plays Justine, a shy, virginal vegetarian, who is starting at the same veterinary that her sister studies at and where her parents studied before her. She is studious and awkward which is of no concern for the older students who ruthlessly haze the newcomers for an intense rush week involving costumes, being painted, buckets of blood, being forced to wear a nappy/diaper, and, most importantly, having to eat a raw rabbit kidney. Once Justine is forced to eat the kidney things begin to get very interesting and her taste buds begin to evolve in a very dangerous way. Marillier gives it her all and never witholds. She is not afraid to debase herself and really get into some of the grosser elements of the movie as it goes along.
Comedy: Filled with body horror and body humour, Raw is a movie that will alternately have you wincing and laughing and gagging. Julia Ducournau’s script and direction are sharp and lean. It moves with intent like a shark and doesn’t linger when it can be attacking instead. The horror elements of the cannibalism are perfectly put into focus by the near constant hazing the students go through as their bedding is constantly tossed out of the window, they are stopped in the hallway and scolded for meeting the eyes of their elders, and they are never allowed any semblance of peace from the near constant noise and crush of bodies.
Overall: An assured debut from Ducournau, Raw is one of the best horror movies of 2016, which is saying something considering how strong 2016 has been in terms of horror on the big screen (and also just generally in our lives). It is also refreshing to see a movie in which the three main characters are two women and a gay man. Try to avoid any information about this movie and dive in. You’ll find that it hooks you from the violence of the opening scene and doesn’t let go until the last scene’s fantastic reveal.
Featured Image: Focus World