by Monica Hayes
The breakout debut of French director Julia Ducorurnau’s Raw is a gory, dark coming of age cannibalistic drama that is masterfully done but leaves you with more questions than answers. Not a good look when you have to read subtitles for the entire movie.
Justine (Garance Marillier), is an awkward, shy, nerdy 16-year-old student from a strict vegetarian, dysfunctional family and has been admitted into the same veterinarian college her parents attended to continue the legacy. She quickly learns that her higher learning experience will not be what she is accustomed too. Justine, her roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) and the other ‘rookies’ are subjected to various hazing tactics designed for first-year students. Rookies are abruptly awakened by what can be described as the first night of Marine Corp boot camp at Parris Island, or the last week of pledging; either way they’re herded out into the courtyard and made to crawl half-naked, to what turned out to be an all-night welcome party; they have blood dumped on them; paint thrown at them; and are made to eat raw rabbits livers.
Justine is forced to eat the rabbit liver by her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), whose actions throughout the film rival those of Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. She later breaks out in a blistery red rash all over. What she doesn’t realizes is that this raw liver just awakened a dark hunger buried deep within! A hunger she had no clue existed. An insatiable hunger – more like a lust – for anything raw and bloody.
Between this new hunger that puts her at odds with her strict vegetarian diet, the relentless hazing, constant partying, lack of any type of adult supervision, and the most hurtful of all, the lack support from her sister, you really start to feel sorry for her being the true outcast throughout the rest of the film.
Justine is like a lost child in the middle of an amusement park full of macabre craziness. Eventually, she gives into the hunger after a misguided Brazilian waxing accident with her sister (you need to see the movie). What happens next is a whirlwind of blood, gore, sexual firsts and craziness the likes of which you cannot imagine.
Due to its graphic content, Ducournau’s Raw has had a reputation of having moviegoers in need barf bags (they really gave them out at the screening) – the same was said about Ely Roth’s Green Inferno – but the barf bag was not needed. You may be more grossed out by the sexual eyeball licking than blood being dumped over rookies. Again, you have to see the movie.
Raw is well crafted, complete with gory images and over the top party scenes with graphic sexual content. The acting is solid; however, it doesn’t completely explain how Justine’s cannibalistic hunger came into existence.
Of course, the rabbit liver sparked it, but what was the underlying cause? Is this the reason why the entire family is vegetarians? Ducournau gives a brief explanation, but not much more.