I‘d like to imagine that Morrissey would be the first in queue to watch this film. The controversial “meat is murder” singer and animal rights activist once famously said “I hope to God it’s human [meat]” upon smelling barbecue during a concert in the US. Yet he’d probably become extremely disappointed. Raw is a very effective, clever and funny movie about a vegetarian who turns into a cannibal, but it is in no way an anti-carnivore statement. After all, meat is fun. Sorry, mate!!!
This incredibly well-crafted horror starts with a sequence that is guaranteed to get you jumping off your seat, only for the pace to slow down and gradually begin to build up again to the very graphic, repulsive and inevitable outcome: human eats human. At first, the film seems to be a very serious and stern horror with strong political and activist connotations, but then it slowly and willfully morphs into an absurd black comedy about wild and naughty university students and a very strange fraternal relation between two sisters. It will keep you hooked, fluttering and pulsating throughout. Much like a chicken in an abattoir.
Raw tells the story of 16-year-old Justine (Garance Marillier), who arrives for her first year in veterinary school somewhere in provincial France. She comes from a family of strict vegetarians, and she has never eaten meat herself, but she’s then forced to consume rabbits kidneys during an initiation ritual. She’s goaded by her upperclass sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) to engage in the bizarre procedure for sake of acceptance. Soon after, a very bizarre accident happens, causing Justine to have her first contact with raw human flesh. You can work out what happens next without me having to dish out some tasters and spoilers of the ensuing feast to the eyes.
Cannibalism isn’t the only sort of interaction with the human body that you will encounter in Raw: there’s plenty of sex (both straight and gay), the most unorthodox university initiation rituals (Americans call them hazing) you’ll come across (including covering the rookie’s body in paint for a hilarious and colourful interaction) and even a Brazilian wax with a tragic outcome. Oh, and there are animals everywhere: dead or alive, put to sleep on ketamine or being cut open in an operation table. There’s blood, saliva, vomit and pretty much any sort of fluids you can imagine in there. And the ones you cannot imagine, too.
This French film will deliberately join the pantheon of the most disgusting horror movies ever made, alongside the likes of Naked Blood (Hisayasu Satō, 1996) and The Human Centipede (Tom Six, 2006). But unlike the Japanese and Dutch films, Raw is a very clever film which successfully recycles cliches of university hazing films, with very strong performances, convincing imagery, a great soundtrack (there are some very energetic and nervous sequences on a dance-floor packed with randy students), plus a very sharp and dark humour.
The fact that this is a French film, and that it was made by a woman is also very relevant. French horror takes a less Manichean look at the “evil” protagonist (click here for our recent interview with French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, where he discusses the benevolent quality of French horror) – you will soon realise that Justine is, in fact, quite sweet and likable. Plus the female gaze behind the camera makes this a less exploitative and voyeuristic movie.
Raw is out in cinemas across the UK from Friday April 7th. Make sure you attend sober and on an empty stomach, just in case. Meanwhile, you can watch the film trailer right here, which is far easier to digest: