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Hollywood Movie " Raw " (2017) Review And Summery

Hollywood Movie " Raw " (2017) Review And Summery

“RAW” (2017):

Mmmm mmmm mmmmm . . . delicious!


“RAW” comes to us courtesy of French newcomer director Julia Ducournau as an indie horror film that delves into self-discovery via sexual exploration, sexual maturity, and peer conformity; all through the charming and blood dripping metaphoric channels of cannibalism – awesome!

Justine (Garance Marillier) is a new student at her veterinary school and it becomes quite clear from the onset that she is not a highly social person that would much rather work on her studies than attending parties, mingle with her energetic and gay roommate, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), or even spend too much time with her outgoing older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf). Seeing that Justine is arriving on campus with a high reputation as a talented mind in the veterinary field, the last thing she wants to do is throw it all away by being reckless and getting trashed all the time. Despite those facts, the school has a tradition of the newcomers going through a “Hazing Week”, and while Justine really doesn’t care, Alexia insists that wimping out of the trials would be nothing short of social suicide, and, well, school lasts long enough already.

For the most part, the hazing is relatively harmless; sure, the new students have to treat the older students with an authoritative amount of respect, are forced to recite embarrassing texts, and at one point even get animal blood poured on them. Justine’s university experience, in particular, starts to change after she is forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney as one of the hazing challenges. While most of the students can handle it, she tries everything to the degree of pleading to get out of it as she is a strict vegetarian that has not eaten a piece of meat in her life. Hell, at one point near the beginning of the film, she is accidentally served some meat with an order of mashed potatoes and begins violently gagging on the spot from merely coming in contact with it. Still, she manages to choke down the bite-sized kidney and passes the test with no visible harm done; that is, until a severe rash breaks out all over her body in what looks to be an apparent allergic reaction. When Justine goes to visit the campus doctor, initially the doctor believes it to be an STD, because, well, college, and Justine confides that she is still a virgin. Given the theme of the film, this is important to note.

Justine is given some ointment to take back to her dorm for regular application, and over the course of a few days, she begins to heal as expected physically, and yet something continues to be profoundly different. After going throughout an entire childhood and teenage life without a scrap of meat, Justine now finds herself slowly but surely lusting for it and her cravings become more intense and grotesque over time. Initially, as with most people dealing with change, Justine is in shock at her own actions, only to have that graduate to denial and then full-blown inhibitions thrown to the wayside as she begins to dine on creatures that are still fully alive and, in particular, human.

I don’t want to give away too much more than that, because while “RAW” is never in the business of throwing in a bunch of twists – I counted two and you’ll see them coming a mile away – the narrative and the tonality of the film are heavily focused on the transformation of Justine on the screen, and there is just no amount of talk that is going to do that proper justice. What is important to know going into “RAW” is that Director Ducournau did with this material what other few other filmmakers have been able to do successfully, and that is making it as realistic as possible. I know that sounds bizarre and makes the subject matter exceedingly more twisted – and it does – but if you are not the slightest bit aware of what rapid diet changes, and yes, cannibalism can do to the human body, you most certainly recall what it was like to go through those last few transitional years into young adulthood and how miserably awkward some of those experiences felt. This is exactly the type of evolution that Justine’s character goes through in that it’s not at all slick or graceful, and while it is more or less obvious where she’s going to end up, the strength of “RAW” is definitely in the journey more so than the destination. You may not like or agree with is being shown and the story around it, but much like a bad car accident, you will likely not be able to look away.

Of course, the realistic edge Ducournau was aiming for does have to go both ways. On one side, there is the humanistic perspective with Justine’s family and small circle of friends, and how her actions impact them; however, that also means that in order to give “RAW” that genuine heft, one must additionally endure the carnage, and let me tell you, some of it is di-f*cking-sgusting. I like to think I have a formidably strong threshold when it comes to gross-out material since I have seen some pretty messed up sh*t in this genre, but “RAW” seemed to know some buttons, and there was one scene in particular that had me squirming in my seat and made my throat itchy. Then again, and I’m not sure exactly how to phrase this without a pun, two-fold kudos is owed to Ducournau for not only giving the film excellent grit, but as well had the keen wit to use it tastefully, i.e., not continuing punching the audience in the fast with bloodbath after numbing bloodbath. Sure, the “incidents”, if you will, do slightly increase in frequency as the story moves along, yet enough space was put between them so to not lose that breath of humanity still left in Justine for the audience to grab onto.

Overall, “RAW” navigates fairly seamlessly from beginning to end, albeit with some bumps along the way. One in particular that I’m thinking about, and probably the biggest “WTF?” scene I have or will see all of this year – the infamous Mirror Dance scene. Yes, if you have browsed this movie at all on YouTube or social media, this is the clip that garners a lot of attention. It’s awkward, it’s kind of hilarious, and, yeah, again, “WTF?” In the context of the story and Justine’s character, it kind of makes sense, though my complaint is that where it lands in the film, and the fact that she’s dancing to a club dance song about necrophilia, it was just a little too distracting for its own good. Ballsy as all Hell, I will give it that much, but ultimately, it does nothing for the mood.

A few other areas of note that I feel did not gel at all was towards the beginning of the film when one of Justine’s professors seems to have it out for her simply because she’s a gifted student. Okay, fine, whatever, except absolutely nothing comes of that single confrontation and it came off as an entirely useless scene that could have been cut out. I also cannot help but think that the “big reveal” in the feature’s final moments was intended to catch the viewers completely off-guard in that “Holy crap, notice how big of a deal this is” kind of way, but as I mentioned before, there are hints and even minor plot points that practically guaranteed where that twist was headed, and I would not call it a significant blow by any stretch, it did make the final scene a bit toothless.

Seeing as this is a foreign production, I am not at all familiar with any of the players involved, but if it wasn’t clear already, I was rather impressed with Ducournau’s stylistic direction, and Garance Marillier is quite the young actress. I have no idea what one would have to do to prepare for a role like this, but she made the whole experience rather odd and uncomfortable, and since cannibalism is the name of the game here, consider that a win.

“RAW” does a great job of fitting in a bulk of the horror genre gambit: Gore, sex, nudity, physical brutality, tension, etc. I feel comfortable in wholly considering this film as yet another highly satisfying and memorable entry in 2017 that is continuing to further the new uprising of scares. Low-budget or not, this is an exceptionally well-made and well-written little thrill that will make you see raw chicken in a whole new light. You’re welcome.


“RAW”: 8.5/10

Home Media: “RAW” does not appear to be currently available on Blu-Ray here in the States, and the DVD is pretty expensive. I’m going to keep my eye on it, though. I may very well watch this again.
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