I had been anticipating seeing this intriguing sounding film for months. One of the main reasons is that it is written and directed by a woman. As some who know me are aware I’m a supporter of women film-makers. I have always loved the different perspective women bring to films. I also know that I’m always likely to see something a bit different. Particularly within the horror genre. I’ve always been a big fan of the horror genre, but I do like film-makers that genuinely try to do something different with the genre and over the last few years I feel that has tended to be the case with women. Which French film-maker Julia Ducournau does beautifully with “Raw“.
It is one of the best debut films I’ve seen in quite a while. Having both written and directed “Raw“, Julia Ducournau has crafted one of the best horror films and character study films I’ve seen in the last few years and definitely one of the best films of 2017.
Prior to making “Raw” she initially attended film school in Paris where she studied screen writing. Her 2011 short film “Junior” won the Petit Rail d’Or prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. “Raw” then went on to win the Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI, International Federation of Film Critics, prize in 2016. Julia Ducournau is clearly a very talented film-maker and wants to do something different within the horror genre. And she certainly has with “Raw“. Her debut feature film.
So after the months of waiting I put the DVD in the player and pressed play. WOW! As the enigmatic opening scene started I soon realised I was about to experience a different type of horror film. It clearly wasn’t going to be a traditional horror film.
Julia Ducournau takes the genre of the cannibal film and does something completely unexpected with it. I know for some that the mention of a cannibal film brings to mind a stomach churning exploitation gore fest. Well that’s definitely not the case with “Raw“. It is a film that depicts cannibalism, but not as we have become accustomed to seeing it being depicted. “Raw” actually has far more in common with the body horror films of David Cronenberg. Which is what Julia Ducournau has said is the type of genre film she set out to make.
“Raw” is in reality an intelligent thought provoking character study with a surprisingly poetic edge to it. I found that it in actual fact shares similarities to “Ginger Snaps“. Among one of the most original horror films of the last 30 years. Whereas that film took a completely different approach to the werewolf film. In the same way Julia Ducournau does this with the cannibal film. What “Raw” also shares is certain similarities to Abel Ferrara’s “The Addiction“. That of the depiction of addiction. Sharing things in common with these two classics, and in the process making a film that seems altogether different to both “Ginger Snaps” and “The Addiction“, for me is a very good thing.
“Raw” at its heart, like “Ginger Snaps“, is a coming of age story and the depiction of the sexual awakening of a teenage girl Justine. Who is also trying to find her place in the world. She is played brilliantly and very realistically by Garance Marillier in her first feature film. Having previously worked with Julia Ducournau twice before. She played the lead in Julia Ducournau’s 2011 short film “Junior“. Which appears to share thematic similarities to “Raw“. Then she appeared in the TV movie “Mange” from 2012 that Julia Ducournau co-directed.
In the opening scenes of “Raw” Justine and her family are shown to all be strict vegetarians. Which adds impact to the events that will unfold later in the film. She is a promising student who is about to start at a veterinary school. Being a new student this involves what is termed a hazing ritual carried out by the older students. She and the other new students undergo humiliating and degrading rituals. Consequently this brings about an awakening in her.
“Raw” depicts very realistically how it feels to be a teenager entering a new school. It deals not only with peer pressure but also sibling pressure too. Showing how hard it is for some to fit in with what is expected of them. Added to this is that it also very realistically depicts the psychological and physical effects of addiction.
Apparently some were shocked by scenes in “Raw“. According to reports somebody fainted during a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016 and had to be taken to hospital. “Raw” isn’t as extreme as this suggests, but there are one or two moments that may shock some who are used to watching mainstream studio horror films. To quote the director “Have they not seen Cannibal Holocaust.” Although “Raw” it isn’t anywhere near as extreme as that masterpiece of extreme cinema.
France and Belgium are continuing to produce among some of the most interesting and boundary pushing films around. “Raw” is without a doubt up there with the best of those films. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Julia Decournau does next. Hopefully it will be with Garance Marillier. From only having seen “Raw” it seems they work really well together and obviously have a great trust in one another. They could make some really interesting films over the coming years.
“Raw” is a brilliantly realised film from everyone involved. It is a breathe of fresh air among the by the numbers generic studio horror films that flood the multiplexes and really deserves to be seen for that fact alone. If you’re looking for something a bit different within the horror genre, and film in general, you won’t go far wrong with “Raw“. Be warned though. Some scenes are not for the squeamish or easily shocked.
“Raw” for me is another great example of what a female perspective brings to the horror genre and is on my list of the best films of 2017.
“Raw” official trailer: