Review: Raw

Director(s)Julia Ducournau
Principal CastGarance Marillier as Justine
Ella Rumpf as Alexia
Rabah Nait Oufella as Adrien
Release Date2016
Running Time 99 minutes

As a vegetarian, I may be a bit biased, but my first thought when seeing the trailer for this movie was – oh no, that really does sound like a horror movie. Raw is a coming-of-age story about Justine, a recently accepted veterinary student who’s a life long vegetarian. As part of a series of hazing ceremonies at her school, she’s pressured/coerced into eating rabbit meat and subsequently develops a taste for other people.

First of all – this movie can get really graphic. It’s about people eating people, what would you expect? Thankfully, it’s not exploitative. The violence has a purpose and is used only when necessary. That being said ,it can be visceral, and if you’re not interested in gore you might want to watch with a pal who can tell you when to open your eyes again. These scenes are shocking and help drive home both the horror and the larger themes at play.

The movie is a clever take on the coming-of-age story. The main gimmick- cannibalism- is used to accentuate the awkward, sometimes scarring, moments of human life. Awkward hookups, too much alcohol at parties, peer pressure to go along with the flow, losing trust in people, trying to find yourself- each of these moments is something we can relate to. The cannibalism just makes those moments physically manifest, so each bite is a reminder of the way we mark each other in each and every interaction. In particular, I love the way the movie deals with Justine and her older sister Alexia ,a senior student at the college. As a sibling myself, it’s strange to kind of transition from siblings that are forced to talk given the proximity of childhood to adults who have more agency in what or when they share. Watching the relationship between the two develop is something else and I didn’t expect it to develop in such a horrifying, but relatable way.

I wish the movie did more with the ethics of hierarchies . The nature of the plot, cult like hazing rituals, etc set up a pretty cool ground work for that discussion but the ideas for it are never fully explored. It feels like a missed opportunity that could’ve substantiated the themes of growth and development while adding another layer of nuance. This is more of a personal criticism though, so I can’t fault the movie for not doing it- but if you’re going into the movie to see a criticism of anthropocentric boundaries, this isn’t it.

The biggest issue I had with the movie is one kind of absurd plot point that makes the entire story feel off? Very early on, two key pieces of information are stressed to the audience. Taken together, along with the way the story plays out, it’s really hard to believe that all the events above would ever actually happen. I’m usually someone that can get over minor plot issues, but this one kind of puts a whole question mark on the inciting incident.

Report Card

TLDRRaw is a coming of age cannibal horror that has a lot of heart and meaning underneath its gory exterior. It’s use of meat eating is as horrifying as it is genius, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Grade A

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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