When a film gets the kind of buzz Raw gained out of film festivals; people reportedly fainting, throwing up, having to be carried out of the theater. It generates a level of anticipation (at least for American audiences) that can never be justified. Perhaps it’s because we live in a world so desaturated to violence and gore, but Julia Ducournau’s feature film debut Raw isn’t worthy of its praise or exclamations. Sure, there is a scene where newcomer and star of the film Garance Marillier’s bites pieces off a severed finger and other scenes of puke, blood, and gore, but they all feel like stunts to go along with a script that has so many other, more interesting elements to explore.

Justine’s parents have just dropped her off at college, to begin her freshman year in veterinary school. Justine’s older sister Alexia (Rumpf) is a junior, but the two sisters have very different personalities and approach to their studies. Her first night on campus, Justine (Marillier) is jarred awake in the middle of the night by a campus wide initiation, it’s here she is introduced to roommate Adrien (Oufella). She balks at having a male roommate at first, but he quickly reassures Justine he isn’t interested in women. Rush week finds Justin, a vegetarian being forced to eat rabbit liver, being slimed by animal blood and subject to all night parties and events. The tiny piece of rabbit liver awakens a craving inside her she can’t satisfy with raw chicken, hamburger or even chewing on her own hair.

Far more concerned with grossing out the viewer than telling a story.

From anal cow investigation, human hairballs, and flesh ingestion, Raw is far more concerned with grossing out the viewer than telling a story. Ducournau’s script doesn’t explain why this university allows such despicable behavior during rush week, it misses a golden opportunity to explore a gay male dealing feelings towards women. Many scenes make no sense in the large picture, or there is an underlying message here I missed. There is a dark, vulgar humor to the script which could be appreciated if anything about the plot felt remotely realistic, but the entire movie exists in some alternate reality. When either of the young women attempt to treat a wound, their lack of knowledge clearly shows they are learning nothing from the courses and study.

Raw is surviving completely on hype. It takes things further than most American horror films would dare, because it’s French, and it can. American genre films want to make money and aim to please. Raw will never play in mainstream American cinemas, meaning the guys who would actually want to see this type of film won’t have access to it. It won’t appeal to those attending prestigious independent cinemas, so Raw won’t be a hit on this side of the pond. It’s also not the type of film that will play well in a theater or public setting. Many audiences might want the comfort of their homes, with pause and fast forward options when the graphic nature becomes too much.

Final Thought

More stunt than cinema.


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