Get ready for a film that is daring enough to sink its bare teeth into its own subject matter, as well as its audience, who’ll all leave feeling either excited or exasperated. In the case of this reviewer, I was left feeling the former and so much more as Raw proves to be a bold and riveting experience from writer/director Julia Ducournau, making her feature film debut. A French/Belgian production, Raw is about two sisters residing at a brutal veterinarian college, coping through the typical adolescent rituals whilst learning the grim truth about themselves and their families.
Throughout the age of cinema, we have seen many iterations of the coming-of-age tale or the story about someone’s sexual awakening in many different genres, but having that be the centre of a cannibal story feels fresh and invigorating. The filmmaking here is very muscular and, for a lack of better words, raw, as Ducournau perfectly marries the slow-burn horror with visual storytelling, resulting in one appetisingly delectable dish. It’s clear that she knew what kind of story she wanted to tell and she did it. The film we get feels like a different breed of horror that doesn’t’ resort to having cheap jump scares, but instead goes full-on with its body horror and the camera never once flinches away from that.
Ruben Impens’ cinematography is fluid and further compliments the sinister atmosphere that’s laden throughout this film, as Impens creates shots that’ll stay with you after the film finishes. No one will ever forget the scene where a poor horse is tranquillised, has its mouth restraint slapped on, gets tied up and completely turned upside down in a harness. These takes are long, languid and spine-chilling, yet is purposeful enough for us to be placed within the thick of things. However, the true genius of this movie is how much it makes us invest in the central anti-heroine Justine; we witness her slow transformation from the virginal vegetarian into the manifestation of her cannibalistic core and rising star Garance Marillier completely sells that perfectly. Marillier gives a multi-layered performance that exudes animalistic energy and vulnerable innocence, and what she delivers is both career-defining and shows her as a rising talent to watch out for.
In the end, Raw is a cannibal horror movie that isn’t really about cannibalism, instead focusing on a story about outsiders trying to fit into a world that doesn’t understand them, as well as two sisters trying to reconnect despite all that’s happening around them. This almost has a similar feel to Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, making this almost like a good companion piece; this is a bold film that is sublimely realised and will probably tap into your primal senses long after it’s finished. Just try to control your meat cravings while you’re at it!
Dir: Julia Ducournau
Scr: Julia Ducournau
Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Naït Oufella
Prd: Julia Ducournau
DOP: Ruben Impens
Music: Jim Williams
Run time: 99 mins
Raw is out on DVD 14th August.