Thy Flesh Consumed: Revisiting Julia Ducournau’s Raw

When it was reported back in 2016 that some audiences members at the 41st annual TIFF received medical attention after fainting at the graphic scenes of Raw, I knew I had to see Julia Ducournau‘s film! If you ask me, that’s the highest level of praise a horror could ever obtain. The aim of the game is to horrify you, is it not?

Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to see the film at the cinema during its initial release as it didn’t receive distribution in either of the multiplexes or my local independent cinema. Needless to say, just a few months later the faint-inducing film received its DVD and Blu-ray release in the UK. Released by Universal Studios, the Blu-ray of Raw was an exclusive to hmv. Conveniently that’s where I was working at the time, so I managed to pick up a copy on the day of its release and scored it for slightly cheaper than full retail price.

Whilst I didn’t faint, vomit or pause the film at any point to take a moment to regain composure, the shock factor of Raw that so many had talked about was abundantly clear. Its on-screen depictions of the taste for human flesh and cannibalism had my undivided attention upon that first ever playthrough. A handful of scenes left me wholly gobsmacked – the scenes of which I imagine had those at the Toronto International Film Festival stricken and riddled with repugnance.

Led by the fresh-faced Garance Marillier, the French body horror film is a rich, complex coming of age tale that juxtaposes its humanist themes to the utmost extreme. Through the spectacularly-acted performances and its gratuitous cannibalistic subject matter, Raw serves audiences a thought-provoking metaphorical voyage into discovering oneself – femininity, sisterhood, sexual awakening and the seductiveness of the world.

Having revisited the film for the first time since 2017 in preparation for this feature, those scenes that left me gobsmacked initially still had the ability to make my jaw slam down to my knees upon a second viewing. The grotesque, gory makeup and special effects are world-class. In the small handful of grisly reveals, I couldn’t help but wince at the perfectionist realism of it all. As somebody who leaped out of his seat in excitement to cheer for the over-the-top bloody violence in Fede Álvarez‘s Evil Dead at the cinema, the same gorgasmic uproar cannot occur for what’s on offer in Raw. It is properly gruesome, eye-watering stuff.

After soundtracking the first quarter of Ben Wheatleys filmography, British composer Jim Williams provides a score for the New French Extremity-esque feature that is in equal parts playful and anxiety-inducing. “playful” through its six aptly-titled “Child Music” acoustic guitar pieces. “anxiety-inducing” through the rest of the compositions that are on offer here. The acoustic numbers serve as respite in between the bedlam of razor-sharp strings, pummelling synths and organs, as well as the hauntingly eerie choral vocals. The quick snap transitions from sweet to sour are dizzying. Each piece of music compliments its respective scene appropriately. The whimsical Child Music tunes accent Justine’s (Marillier) innocence and intrigue as a newbie to veterinary school. Whereas the bombarding organ-led pieces represent Justine’s debauchery and hunger for the flesh. Williams is truly a master of his craft.

Raw was met with universal acclaim from moviegoers and film critics alike. David Fear of Rolling Stone famously gave a rare perfect score 4 out of 4 stars, going on to call it “a contender for best horror movie of the decade”. British film critic titan Mark Kermode named the it the best film of 2017. Just last year, online film collective The Final Girls produced a wonderful 50-minute podcast that took a bite into the film and tore it apart – talking about its prominent feminine exuberance. Likewise with all their efforts, the episode is a must-listen for any knowledge-thirsty film buff!

What Julia Ducournau accomplished with her bodacious film is undeniably what has gone on to become of the most talked about films of recent years. A body of work that garnered quite the reputation. Raw has become not only an absolute must-see foreign-language piece of cinema, but a staple horror film also. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anybody who looks to be challenged, disgruntled and astonished. In fact, after my first experience with Ducournau‘s film, I recommended it to a fellow hmv colleague of mine, who also happened to be a vegetarian. To my delight, his aimed response was that he “regretted watching the film on a full stomach”.

Related: Film Review – Raw (2016)

If somehow you have not seen Raw over the last four years and believe you have a cast-iron stomach, fear not! There’s no time like the present! But before you go perusing Netflix and Prime Video in search of it only to be disappointed, niche back catalogue and restoration specialists Second Sight Films are set to distribute a limited edition Blu-ray re-release of the film that’s jam-packed with lots of tasty and delicious treats for you to sink your teeth into! On the surface – diminishing more and more each year into eventual obsoletion, the love for physical media will always be eternal in a collector’s capacity. What’s on offer here will have any avid Blu-ray collector, world cinema enthusiast or horror aficionado foaming at the mouth.

The Second Sight revision of Raw is presented in a rigid slipcase with a rendition of the films theatrical poster designed by Percival & Associates serving as the cover artwork; a lush alternative to its frankly ugly and dull pre-existing hmv counterpart. Four art cards are included, as well as booklet with brand new text essays from Little White Lies’ Hannah Woodhead (@thethirdhan) and Aussie film writing legend, Emma Westwood (@EmmaJWestwood).

Aside from its hands-on goodies, the special edition package – which is limited to just 2,000 is chockablock with exclusive special features for die-hard fans of the film as well as the general collector.

In a 15-minute interview with lead actor, Marillier unreservedly talks about her long-time friendship with Julia Ducournau, how they met, prior work they’ve collaborated on and what led her to taking the “unusual” role of vegetarian fresher, Justine.

There too is a handful of various interviews, Q&As and featurettes with director, Ducournau as well as an illuminating commentary-track that’s pushed into the foreground of the films runtime. Viewers are encouraged inside the minds of the creators and contributors for a wider understanding and appreciation of Raw. The audio commentary sees another contribution from Aussie, Emma Westwood. The vastly insightful and candid conversation between Ducournau and Westwood is a firm reminder that absolutely all DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD home-released films should have a commentary-track with the filmmakers, not just special edition releases. A resurgence is deserved and needed. For hardcore film fans, it is completely stimulating to hear the viewpoint of one differently to yours. Having a biased and linear perspective of a film is utterly boring. Welcome contrasting thoughts and opinions invites positive variation.

Also included in this premium bundle is an alternative commentary-track from Toronto-based film journalist, Alexandra West (@ScareAlex). Similarly to the other commentary, West exhibits a plethora of wisdom and an entirely different perspective on Ducournau‘s film for its listeners. And another Australian film industry sensation, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (@suspirialex) presents a 13-minute video macro essay on the themes of Raw and their significance.

The icing on the cake/the cherry on top/the Flake and sprinkles on the 99 ice-cream is two mesmerising deleted scenes that I’ll can’t quite figure out why they didn’t make the final cut.

All in all, you’re served several hours worth of informative, enriching and never-a-dull-moment audio-visual special features. Dispensed via a really, really beautiful vessel. It is a must-have edition for any hardcore fan or casual admirer of Raw, as well as any dedicated film librarian!
Raw Limited Edition Blu-Ray will be released in the UK and Ireland from 26th April, Pre-Order/Buy here