Student life gets a Cronenbergian body-horror switch up in this bizarre and bloody coming-of-age cannibal tale.
Raw’s already fairly infamous within the film community both at home and overseas, mostly for its, let’s say, ‘eventful’ early festival screenings last year, that saw audiences running for the aisles and chucking their guts up at every possible opportunity. It’s not just a gory movie, it’s one that roots that gore in something deeply real and very uncomfortable, something that once haunted everyone and here has an even weirder grasp on later life: puberty.
Coming-of-age is nothing new, and whilst we’ve seen a fair few horror-tinged pot shots at it more recently, Raw stands out for a whole bunch of different reasons. Namely its set-up: a first-year vet student (Garance Marillier) from a sheltered home struggling to fit in with the hard-partying social scene whilst gradually developing some seriously dark tastes of her own. As a jumping off point, it’s just grounded enough to make sense, but when things finally do take a decidedly twisted turn, director Julia Ducournau really steps things up a notch.
And whilst there is something of a gradual descent into darkness here, Ducournau still starts things off fairly strong. To any seasoned horror pro or basically anyone who’s sat through Saw or Hostel once or twice, the bloodletting on hand here won’t come as massively gruesome. Despite some incredible practical make-up effects and the occasional lost limb, there’s worse out there for sure. What pushes Raw above a lot of others in a similar position is how it builds up to its goriest moments in the most unrelenting way possible.
Marillier is obviously a big part of this, committing to a performance that’s equal parts vulnerable and stark-raving bonkers, without ever encroaching on that much expected silliness. She’s an incredibly believable force, shifting violently throughout but never without reason, delivering a lead that it’s very easy to feel quite a bit for, even as she starts to chow down on a big ol’ hunk of human flesh. And surely there’s no higher compliment than that?
In Marillier, Ducournau has tremendous foundations; Raw is never disgusting for the sake of being disgusting. Everything has its place and its time, and though shocking, each and every blood dump is very well earned and even more effective than the last.
There are plenty of plot niggles for sure, namely the fact that things don’t quite turn in the way you expect (or in many ways, want) them to, and the final result is something that ultimately does feel a little underdeveloped, creating space for vast mythology and depth that’s just never actually delivered.
In many ways though, this unpredictability and so, constant inner-tension are what really makes Raw so abhorrently effective in the long run. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience by any stretch of the imagination, but one that will no doubt stick with you, whether you want it to or not.
Raw is out in UK cinemas 7th April.