Director: Julia Ducournau
First-time writer/director Julia Decournau debuts with a movie that I couldn’t physically handle. That happens to us all from time to time I suppose, even to those who, like me, have been around horror for a while, who aren’t particularly squeamish, who understand the metaphors behind the gore and can accept blood as an artistic choice. Now, I don’t love graphic mutilations, I’m not a psychopath, I have my limits, and for some reason Raw exceeded them. It isn’t the most intense horror film I have ever seen, but something about the nature in which it was devised pushed my stomach past the point of no return, and I found it hard to judge the movie simply on content and delivery, the physicality posing too big a problem to ignore.
A young women begins her college career as a legend at a veterinary school, a university that both her parents attended and at which her sister is currently attending. Justine loves animals, was born to be a vet, is a strict vegetarian, and has her path all laid out in a way that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. But when she gets to school, she realizes that she will undergo changes that she never though possible. The initiation rituals for “rookies” are ridiculous, a mix of drunken parties and literal blood baths that are meant to shake the weakness out of those who want to call themselves ‘doctor’. Justine is even forced to eat a piece of meat, the taste of which ignites a strange desire within her for flesh.
This film reminded me a lot of The Tribe, another amateur foreign film about the harsh possibilities of school age young adults left to their own devices, this time from Ukraine, while Raw is French. The two films have the same heavy feeling of despair, but the former is more realistic, this movie relies a bit more heavily on fantasy. And I liked the style with which it was made, it had a unique pressure that I enjoyed being weighed down by, I just couldn’t get over the more gruesome aspects of the film. I hate to sound weak when it comes to this genre; there was just so much blood, so much biting, so many look-away-scenes that I just couldn’t ingest. I had a weird, physical reaction to Maggie too, but I understand that film wasn’t as well-made as this one, although I’m not sure how much that matters. In the end, I couldn’t enjoy Raw, I think the director pushed too hard, and I also think that’s too bad.
My rating: ☆ ☆