This inappropriate and intense cannibal film is everything a modern horror should be.
Promising veterinary student Justine arrives fresh on campus to find it’s a vertiginous perpetual motion machine of banging blowouts and brutal hazing. One such initiation ritual, involving ingesting bunny kidneys, leads to a breach of her vegetarian ideology.
As a result, Justine is flung into the bloody wake of a sexually destructive, wholly consuming craving for human flesh.
At its intellectual core, Raw is an insightful multi-layered peep behind the curtain of social conformity by way of self-esteem, family expectations and sibling rivalry. However, this erudite shocker is also determined to give the gag reflex a comprehensive workout. Bile inducing effects combine with an unnervingly succulent sound design to ensure Raw taxes the stomach as much as the brain.
The diligently appointed cast proves uniformly faultless in humanising a rabid dog of a script, thick with the sartorial saliva of hyper awkwardness and sexual politics. Unlike the heavy-duty cardboard populous of most modern horror films featuring young adults, these fine actors know that the basic essence of empathy is likeability.
Consequently, Raw is positively loaded with the kind of dark wit that is guaranteed to elicit ripples of nervous laughter amidst the rolling waves of nausea. Furthermore, despite some distinctly explicit content, capable of surprising the most jaded purveyor of the perverse, the audience feels involved in a private joke rather than a process of cynical exploitation. A piquant dose of irony considering the film’s thematic preoccupation with the perils of peer pressure.
The score is by regular Ben Wheatley cohort Jim Williams and he builds on his increasingly revered reputation here, creating a refinedly atmospheric soundscape. Imperious without beeing domineering it drills deep into Justine’s psyche to soundtrack an emotional breakdown in ways reminiscent of a Hitchcock movie.
Regarding its placement in the genogram of extreme French horror, Raw is the cheeky, party girl sister of Claire Denis’ indelible Trouble Every Day. Despite sharing the same gloopy DNA, the former bounces along to the Giddy Stratospheres of The Long Blondes whilst the latter wallows in the Taxi To Coré of The Tindersticks.
Julia Ducournau’s splatter coated cinematic curveball is perfectly pitched in terms of both tone and authenticity. Raw is just as comfortable allowing its comedic sequences to soar as you will be uncomfortable enduring the fleshy salvos of uber-tactile body horror. And although utterly credible in its depiction of the physiological and biological stresses on young women in today’s society, the movie abstains from beating us to death with the feminist film theory handbook in its rush to pass the Bechdel test.
Sparkling with a tangible viridity it’s proper grown up horror exhibited in mint condition. Original, challenging, inventive, tigerishly entertaining and at times cringingly unwatchable.
To expel such a strong and empowering primal scream in a debut feature is nothing short of astonishing. This is one serious calling card, brimming with effortless versatility, range and confidence.
I triple dare you to make this your next date movie, not because of its incongruous agenda, but because it’s a crowd pleasing, gender conversant cyclone of sheer entertainment.
| Bradley Hadcroft
Cannibal, Horror, Drama | France/Belgium, 2016 | 99 mins | | Universal Pictures Int (UK) | UK cinemas 7th Apr. 2017 | Dir. Julia Ducournau| Cast. Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella