Raw – France/Belgium, 2016

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‘What are you hungry for?’

Raw – also titled Grave – is a 2016 French/Belgian horror feature film written and directed by Julia Ducournau. The movie stars Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf and Rabah Nait Oufella.

Ducaurnau has said her approach to the film is heavily influenced by Canadian auteur David Cronenberg (The Brood; Videodrome; Naked Lunch).

As reported by The Guardian, a screening of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2016 resulted in paramedics being called. “An ambulance had to be called to the scene as the film became too much for a couple patrons,” Ryan Werner, who is handling the film’s marketing, said in a statement.

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Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen, she’s a brilliant and promising student. When she starts at veterinary school, she enters a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world.

During the first week of hazing rituals, desperate to fit in whatever the cost, she strays from her family principles when she eats raw meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences of her actions when her true self begins to emerge…

Review:

Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw is an erotic coming-of-age drama/teen body horror. Student and vegetarian, Justine (Garance Marillier) develops a taste for human flesh after undergoing an initiation ceremony at her first year in veterinary school. The class is splattered with blood and forced to eat rabbit kidneys, which Justine initially refuses. Also attending the school is her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) who persuades her to join in.

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Justine’s cravings extend beyond raw meat to a human finger when Alexia has an unlikely accident involving a bikini wax and a pair of scissors, and Justine starts gnawing on the digit like a chicken wing. The sisters’ animalistic nature is revealed when a car crashes on a deserted road and Justine has to stop Alexia from eating one of the passengers. Yet as her own urges intensify, she starts lusting after her gay friend and roommate, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), eventually losing her virginity to him. With her desire for sex conflicting with a hunger for flesh, she attempts to bite him several times before chewing on her own arm. Rather than freaking out, Adrien is strangely accepting of this abnormal compulsion.

Likewise, when Justine gets drunk at a party and ends up in the morgue, she can’t remember anything until Adrien shows her a video on his phone. Justine is horrified to see herself crawling around like an animal while Alexia dangles a corpse’s arm in front of her as though it’s bait.

The sisters fight in front of everyone and Alexia bites a chunk of Justine’s face off before they gnaw on each other’s limbs, almost gaining satisfaction in the repulsive act. The strange behaviour reaches a peak when Justine finds Adrien dead in his bed with half of his leg eaten away and a stab wound in his back. Alexia is covered in his blood, seemingly in a state of shock. Despite Justine’s grief, she decides not to take revenge and cleans her sister up in the shower.

Although Alexia ends up in prison, the girls have a mutual understanding and love for one another, which is nice to see. Back home, Justine’s father (Laurent Lucas) tells her that it isn’t their fault and makes a shocking revelation when he opens his shirt to reveal a mutilated torso. Their mother has the same ‘condition’ and he insists that Justine will find a solution. Ironically, Lucas also starred in the similarly themed French body horror, In My Skin (2002).

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Justine’s animalistic urges and the internal struggle as she ascends into womanhood are reminiscent of the renowned Ginger Snaps (2000), and director Julia Ducournau has spoken about the film’s bold expression of female sexuality many times. In fact, Raw breaks a lot of gender stereotypes, from the sisters playing video games to dropping their pants and peeing over the floor for laughs.

The film is worthy of its critical acclaim and has a far more psychological depth than your average cannibal fest, despite facing controversy for its graphic content and reports of people fainting and vomiting at theatrical showings. Raw does a great job of getting under your skin in more ways than one.

Rae Louise, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“Although the film is rooted in arthouse film territory, and is particularly inspired by the films of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, Raw turns out to be its own wild animal. It has rightly earned the buzz that has surrounded the picture, and Ducourneau’s uncompromising vision is one to watch.” Jordan Ruimy, The Playlist

Raw’s exploration of the onscreen potential of cannibalism feels fresh. It’s not a brutal practice here so much as a pathetic and sad one, something that inspires as much loathing in the devourer as the devoured. Justine doesn’t have the privilege of being undead when she sinks her teeth into another human; she’s watching her own descent into animalism just as helplessly as we are.” Emily Yoshida, Vulture

“As an allegory of the discovery of identity, shifting sexuality, the sexual power of women, and the first steps into adulthood, it’s a unique and rare film, that will hopefully (and deservedly) find an audience beyond genre film fans.” Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Screen Anarchy

“Ducournau’s control of her material is masterful … The script is at once fiercely original and replete with a rich awareness of the genre, smoothly referencing films from Carrie to Ginger Snaps and The Craft. Marillier is excellent, playing Justine with a subtlety and assurance that grounds the film, even at its most extreme.” Chloe Roddick, Sight & Sound

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Raw is a deliciously fevered stew of nightmare fuel that hangs together with a breezily confident sense of superior craft. Genre-led distribs will be slavering for a taste, while crossover to a slightly more mainstream crowd may be possible, provided they have strong stomachs.” Catherine Bray, Variety

“Everyone but vegetarians will feast their eyes on Raw (Grave), a cleverly written, impressive made and incredibly gory tale of one young woman’s awakening to the pleasures of the flesh — in all senses of the term. Marking the feature debut of French director Julia Ducournau, who leads a terrific young cast into a maelstrom of blood, guts and unfettered sexual awakening…” Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

” …while it’s clearly the stuff of clean-living nightmares, Raw is not some silly splatter fest. Ducournau directs with remarkable poise and assurance, impressively grounding Raw‘s weirder, wilder moments. This is not so much scary movie as unflinchingly intimate coming-of-age indie.” Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, London Metro

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Raw’s cannibal awakening is paired wittily with a very dark college self-discovery journey in which Justine, a teacher’s pet, experiments with drinking and sex as she navigates her sometimes supportive and sometimes competitive relationship with the aggressive Alexia … Raw is filled with surreally Cronenberg-esque peeks at vet training within the brutalist walls of the campus building, from dog dissections to a horse running on a treadmill.” Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed

“Ruben Impens’s photography, featuring a string of eerily spacious wide shots, makes the most of the imposingly odd brutalist architecture of the vets’ college and the make-up, by Laura Ozier and SFX specialist Olivier Afonso, is at times quite hair-raisingly juicy. All in all, a classily savorous fright tartare.” Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily

” …there is enough to admire here to satisfy conventional appetites, not least Marillier’s tightly controlled portrayal of Justine’s metamorphosis from herbivorous virgin to into horny mega-carnivore […] Yet what makes Raw engrossing and indeed out-grossing, is its literally visceral power to realise its primary ambition. It consistently horrifies.” Matthew Norman, London Evening Standard

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Cast and characters:

  • Garance Marillier … Justine
  • Ella Rumpf … Alexia
  • Rabah Naït Oufella … Adrien
  • Laurent Lucas … Father
  • Joana Preiss … Mother
  • Bouli Lanners … The driver
  • Marion Vernoux .. A nurse
  • Jean-Louis Sbille … The professor

Release:

Raw opened theatrically via Focus World in select US cities on March 10, 2017.

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2 Comments on “Raw – France/Belgium, 2016”

  1. Does anyone know what song shes listening to while dancing infront of the mirror? with headphones and in her sisters dress, if I remember correctly.
    Awesome movie btw

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