Raw made headlines following its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival after audience members passed out and paramedics had to be brought in. It had publicity stunt written all over it, but it was a creative ploy which made horror fans take notice. The crowd I saw this with at FrightFest didn’t pass out, but judging by the raucous round of applause at the end, they’ve certainly added more steam to the hype train that is Julia Ducournau’s delicious debut.
The story follows Justine (Garance Marillier), a shy vegetarian teenager who attends veterinary school and develops a new kind of eating habit. After being forced to consume raw rabbit kidney as a part of her freshman hazing week, her craving for meat extends to that of the human variety, which leads to her coming out of her shell, so to speak. What ensues is a journey of female self-discovery with some bite.
Part coming-of-age feminist dramedy, part gruesome cannibal fare, Raw is arguably the best film to emerge from France since the heyday of New French Extremity, and it’s every bit as good as the classics associated with the early-mid 2000s offerings from that gruesome boom period. However, despite its forays into visceral, bloody terrains, Raw is anything but a mean-spirited horror film; instead it bends genre tropes to tell a story of embracing the latter years of adolescence, and the awkwardness those years can entail. Justine is a likeable sweet character, and her transformation from vegetarian to flesh eater is used as an allegory for the experimental years we all go through during personal growth.
Raw is every bit as good as critics are making it out to be and I’ll be surprised if I see a better film this year. Sometimes a movie comes along and captures lightning in a bottle and this is one of those experiences. Much like The Witch, It Follows and The Babadook did in recent years, Raw will polarise audiences when it sees a wide release – it’s certainly not for everyone – but rest assured, it’s a future classic in the making, and bold, human filmmaking at its absolute finest.
Words: Kieran Fisher