Justine (Garance Marillier) is a lifelong vegetarian and her family are likewise. When she begins university at a veterinary college, she is quickly exposed to the brutal hazing rituals of college from which her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), also at the college, offers no protection. At one point, Justine is forced to eat a piece of what she is told is rabbit kidney. After this, she begins to change significantly. Her body starts changing and she has developed a taste unlike anything she has ever experienced before.
Raw is a difficult film to review because it is genuinely one of these movies where it’s better to go in with as little knowledge as possible. At that, given that the film posters and promotional images for the movie basically all have blood in them, one can safely assume this is a horror film. Moreover, its title should give you an inkling of what kind of horror it is.
Anyone who has read about the film will also probably be aware of its reception at a screening at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was reported that some viewers fainted as a result of the film’s graphic scenes, while others report that they were physically sick. The trailer for the film gives you a very good idea of how graphic the film gets and while the film is explicit at times, it never gets worse than what is teased in the trailer. You ought to be warned though – anyone with a discomfort around blood or sensitive to animals will feel particularly distressed.
For a horror film, the overwhelming feeling one gets while watching it is not so much fear as shift-around-your-seat-inducing discomfort. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s clear that Raw is not intended to make you jump with fright or haunt your dreams. It wholly immerses you in its fascinating world and akin to more socially conscious horrors, gets you to think and want to talk about the movie immediately afterwards.
There are piercing moments in the sound design while the make-up and the special effects are done so well that they’ll make you uncomfortable, or even experience nausea. But that is also a testament to its power as a movie. How regularly do horror movies actually scare us anymore, or how often are thrillers really thrilling? It does what the movies are meant to do and that is to make you feel. As repulsive as several moments are, it is also completely and utterly fascinating.
Another of the film’s strengths is its portrayal of the anarchic experience of college life (which, though a French-Belgian production, has a very American feel). It is also beautifully photographed and effective in its colour design, smartly using the colour red in particular. There are plenty of moments of college gross-out humour and viewers may be both amazed and horrified by how many laugh-out-loud, darkly funny moments there actually are in it. It’s like Carrie meats (that was a misspell but I'm keeping it in there) Dazed and Confused, in a really messed up way.
There is much of interest occurring thematically in this film but again, talking about them too much will give the game away. If you can stomach it, Raw is a rewarding watch.
Review by Deirdre Molumby | 14:17 | Wednesday 5th April 2017 | Movie Review