I hate the movie Raw. I hate every second of the movie Raw. This challenging cannibalistic French horror movie put me through the ringer for 99 challenging minutes and I hated it. And yet, I can’t say it isn’t a damn brilliant film. Director Julia Ducornau directs this movie with such surety, such confidence and with such undeniable wit that I have to admit my appreciation of the film as a work of art, even as I will never watch Raw ever again.
Raw stars Garance Marillier as Justine, an innocent young girl headed off to veterinary school. There, she is immediately subjected to hazing as the students are pulled from their beds by the upper classmen and are dragged through the halls before being taken to an all-night rave. There, Justine finally finds her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) who was supposed to meet her earlier but left her to be found by the upper classmen, per the annual school ritual.
We are told that every freshman goes through a Hell Week like this where they are forced into all-night parties, must follow bizarre dress codes, and are covered in a substance that looks like blood. One of the hazing rituals requires the previously vegetarian Justine to eat the raw kidney of a rabbit. She refuses, but her sister steps in with force and she eats it. This sets off a series of shocking events that rise as the narrative rises and begins to turn your stomach.
I haven’t had an experience like Raw since I first saw Eli Roth’s Hostel. That film, however, lacks this movie’s precise tone and remarkable artistry. Where Hostel was shock for the sake of shock with the intent of making audiences vomit, Raw has a serious point on its mind, with allusions to women’s sexual awakening and freedom to the ways in which our society grinds up those who can’t compete to be consumed by those more prepared for a cutthroat world.
Hostel has no ideas beyond gore. Raw is all ideas and director Ducornau intends on force feeding those ideas to the audience. If you can’t take it, turn it off. I almost turned it off. I almost could not take what Raw was dishing out and I see it as a badge of honor that I managed to stick with it, even as my stomach remains unsettled and quite upset with my ability to stick through this experience.
Ducornau’s filmmaking is shocking and raw and terrifying. The way she places her camera, the angles she chooses to catch Justine as she is salivating over raw human meat is more terrifying than most zombie movies. There is intensity to Garance Marillier’s performance that Ducornau captures like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s a partnership between director and actor, a chemistry that is unshakable, and I could not turn away even as my insides were begging me to.
Is Raw the most shocking movie I have ever seen? No, but it’s the most artfully shocking movie I have ever seen. Again, I have seen the Hostel movies, I have seen Wolf Creek, and I have seen the classic gore of Argento and the shock value stuff of Cannibal Holocaust, but those were low-budget movies made by carnies, not film artists like Ducornau.
I will never watch Raw ever again, but I don’t regret having seen it once. Raw is shocking and brutal and strange, but exceptionally well made. Julia Ducornau is a remarkably talented filmmaker and I cannot wait to see what she does next. Hopefully it will be something I can watch more than one time, unlike Raw, which, again, I will NEVER WATCH AGAIN!