Director: Julia Ducournau
Year of release: 2017
Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes
No one does college hazing better than veterinarians in Julia Ducournau’s Raw; a film which uses the veneer of a cannibal horror movie to tap into deeper notions of sexual confusion, self-shame, and the often uncomfortable nature of being trapped inside one's body at a young age. Garance Marillier gives an intensely controlled performance as Justine; an intelligent young veterinarian student whose inexperience with sex and overall social discomfort maker her a prime target for the unusually hostile schooling environment where older students casually douse the new recruits in animal's blood while forcing them to eat rabbit kidneys in between whiskey shots. Meanwhile, Justine's older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is on hand to initiate her sibling into these strange rituals, including goading her into ingesting the aforementioned kidney. Justine is understandably repulsed by such practices, especially considering the fact that she has been strictly raised as a vegetarian, but it doesn't take long for her to develop a taste for fresh meat.
Raw is more unsettling than many horror films because the reasons behind Justine's carnivorous inclinations are never explicitly made clear. Instead, Ducournau's keenly exploits the bizarre nature of the setting by turning the school into a breeding ground for flesh-eating cannibals as a way of commenting on the pressures many young people feel (especially women) to develop their sexuality before they even understand their own bodies. When, for instance, Justine dances seductively in front of the mirror while applying lipstick, this blossoming of sexual urges coincides with her insatiable need for human flesh.
Gorgeously shot with striking tableaus showcasing the school's cycle of abuse and often framing Marillier in contrast to the hedonistic flurry of motion, Raw showcases Ducournau’s genuine knack for David Cronenbergian body horror with a distinctly female perspective. Therefore, the often grotesque violence here has a figurative purpose; shaping the narrative into a commentary on we often view our bodies with a sense of arbitrary detachment and that we must either tame our base animal urges or be institutionalized within a system which will eventually destroy us.