Written and Directed by: Julia Ducournau
Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Year: 2016
Duration: 99 min
Country: France
BBFC Certification: 18

 

Justine starts her first year at veterinary school, eager to develop her skills and forge a career while also following in the footsteps of her older sister. However, a series of savage hazing rituals eventually force the naive young vegetarian to taste her first piece of meat and set her on a dark path towards an insatiable craving and the discovery of a grim family secret.

Raw is a tough film. There is a bleakness and nihilism that runs through its DNA,  from the grim autumnal scenery gorgeously captured by cinematographer Ruben Impens, to the harsh concrete of the university campus the majority of the story unfolds in, to the grim, unflinching attitude of the older students towards the “fresh meat”, this is a story that is, at times, tricky to watch.

Cut from similar cloth to popular early 2000’s French New Wave Horror movies such as Ils, Martyrs and Haute Tension, writer/director Julia Ducournau has crafted a film that gained notoriety following its 2016 release as a “Cannibal” horror. But genre fans going in expecting a grody gorefest similar to the 70s and 80s exploitation films of Italian directors such as Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi may be disappointed. Yes, Raw has some incredibly unpleasant and gruesome moments, but they are scattered among a much richer tapestry of psychological and family drama, winding into a story that is more about addiction than it is about scoffing on someone’s finger.

Garance Marillier is excellent in this film as protagonist Justine, a role that puts her front and center in pretty much every scene, often finding herself in some kind of horrific situation. From the cruelty shown towards her and her fellow first years by the older students, to her gradual descent into desires that are totally alien to her, culminating in what almost feels like familial betrayal is hard to watch, and Marillier sells that 100%. It also helps that the makeup FX on display are absolutely top-notch, including several scenes which had me reaching for IMDB to check that some of the things on display were actually props.

Ducournau ratchets the tension up slowly through the film’s slower first half, gradually bringing some of the deeper themes of isolation and alienation in while peppering the proceedings with sudden upsetting moments, yet also knows how to shoot scenes in a tender, almost gentle way. Take the moment that Justine has her first taste of human flesh, where the camera is allowed to linger, the soundtrack soft as she comes to the realisation that what she really wants to do is just take one small bite – it’s a moment that is shot almost like a love scene, but it’s also one that quickly turns horrific and leads into the story’s first real twist.

The soundtrack is also top-notch here, from the sparse sound design in harsher scenes, to the cries of the animals in the university and the equal braying of the abusive students. The viewer is made to feel like they’re being put through the same wringer as Justine. This is all undercut by Jim Williams’ haunting soundtrack, mixing with the story and visuals to create a complex and unsettling stew which is essential viewing for fans of French horror.

Bonus features

  • The Girl Can’t Help It: a new interview with Actor Garance Marillier
  • Making Ends Meat: a new interview with Producer Jean des Forets
  • New audio commentary by film critic Alexandra West
  • Audio Commentary with Julia Ducournau and film critic Emma Westwood
  • In the Name of Raw: an interview with Director Julia Ducournau
  • A Family Affair: a new video essay by film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • Raw À Votre Goût –featurette with Julia Ducournau & film critic Emma Westwood
  • Quick Bites with Julia Ducournau & film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • Genre Matters Panel Discussion
  • Australian Premiere Introduction
  • Australian Premiere Q&A with Julia Ducournau and Kier-La Janisse
  • Alternative opening, deleted scenes, trailers
  • New optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired

Limited Edition Contents 

  • Rigid slipcase
  • Perfect-bound booklet with  new essays by Hannah Woodhead and Emma Westwood plus interview with Julia Ducournau by Lou Thomas
  • 3  collectors’ art cards

This new release from Second Sight is also a treat for fans, with a great looking and sounding BluRay transfer and a meaty selection of bonus features for viewers to sink their teeth into, covering a series of interesting and informative interviews as a well as alternative and deleted scenes. The limited edition release also includes gorgeous packaging, some collectors cards and a booklet including essays that we sadly didn’t get a chance to check out.

An incredible and visceral horror, Raw is certainly not for everyone, but is essential viewing for genre fans, and this release is certainly one to add to your collection.

Raw
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