Director: Julia Ducournau
Garrance Marillier as Justine
Ella Rumpf as Alexia
Rabah Nait Oufella as Adrien
The spookiest and best season of the year has come to a close and it is now time for me to crawl back into the damp hole I like to hibernate in until the next October. Before that, I would like to banshee scream one final time about how much I love the year’s best horror film, “RAW”. French director Julia Ducournau only further proves my theory that the best executed modern horror films are foreign. It’s completely possible that I’m just pretentious. Regardless, Ducournau creates a scintillating world that many are now infatuated with.
“RAW” centers around a young woman, Justine, starting her first year at veterinary school. It is revealed early in the film that she has been a devout vegetarian her entire life due to the influence of her mother. During a routine hazing ritual her first few days at the school, she is forced to consume raw rabbit kidney and and develops an insatiable lust for flesh. One of my favorite aspects of this film is that in all of its glory, it is a coming of age film. Justine leaves her home behind, which means that she is leaving parental influence behind as well. She sheds some of the shame instilled in her and begins to find the core of herself. Whether that be for the good of herself and others (or not), is slowly revealed throughout the film. When Justine begins to embrace her cannibalistic lust, she becomes noticeably more confident with herself and goes through a mini sexual revolution of her own. Through a series of milestones that are cannibalistic and sexual alike, you see her grow into herself and you find yourself rooting for this despite the illegal nature of her desires.
“RAW” does not only honor the ghosts of films past with an irresistible plot line but also with an orchestral theme that feels bigger than the film itself and cinematography that makes viewers feel a range of emotions from unsettled to invigorated. Many of Ducournau’s shots are purely symbolic. This is usually an aspect of film I harbor a certain disdain for, due to the typically forced nature of symbolism. In my opinion, symbolism should be executed to as an extension of the plot, which is exactly what Ducournau succeeds in doing. In “RAW,” these shots seem to heighten the already pent up anxiety of the viewer. Upon further examination, shots of the same subject matter imitate Justine’s character development and foreshadow the morbid acts to come. Garance Marillier manages to eschew playing Justine as a flat “good girl gone bad” in the most extreme sense of the trope. Instead, at her best, Marillier seems to be electric, as if the the conflicting emotions she feels of lust, guilt, desire, and fear manage to create so much friction you can feel the crackling electricity through the screen.
Many may revel in the grotesque subject matter as well as the graphic cannibalistic storyline, so this film might not be for you if you don’t particularly enjoy watching straight up unadulterated cannibalism. But for those who can stomach this film (bonus points if you eat meat while watching it), congratulations, and welcome to the best horror film of 2017.