As I'm sitting here trying to get back into the swing of things on Steemit, trying to wrap my head around an article on Joel Rifkin that no longer seems to transition from the Mom and Dad review the way I had originally intended it to; this movie popped into my head out of nowhere. I remember watching it and really wanting to throw it's name out there onto the Steem platform so my fellow horror nerds might take interest in this commonly overlooked film. I know it's hard for a lot of you to get over the language barrier thing and reading subtitles sucks, sure, but if you want to continue watching American horror films about moving into a haunted house or getting lost in the woods; go for it.
Raw is just that; fucking raw. But it's also beautiful; the directing, the score; everything. Not to mention I could probably just sit and listen to people speak in French for the rest of my life. I could certainly listen to Garance Marillier speak French for the rest of my life, anyway. Raw is Marillier's feature film debut, and I really hope to see more from the new actress because she does an incredible role in this movie.
I'm trying to do the whole review-before-the-spoilers bit but it really doesn't work for me. If I want to talk about a film I actually need to talk about a film. Plus there's such a fine line between spoilers and non, depending on the imaginative ability of the reader, that even the smallest reference could ruin an entire film for someone. So what else can I say? I heard that a lot of people apparently walked out of this film because they found it too, well, "raw". After watching the film, I really don't understand those people. I guess if you think you might feel the same way, don't watch horror movies. It's kind of the point. Anyways, that's all I got before I ruin it all for you. If you are even the slightest bit interested.. go watch it.
Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers
I'm so glad that's done with. I honestly don't see the point of reviewing a film without talking about things that could potentially spoil it - my reviews of that nature consist of either "go see it", "don't see it", or "maybe see it". And that hardly makes for a good Steemit post.
Spoiler talk aside, I think the general topic of the movie is fairly obvious between the title and probably any and all media you've seen promoting the film; cannibalism. But, unlike many of the dozens or hundreds of films that have been made revolving around cannibalism since 1980 and before, there is actually quite a strong portrayal of the psychological toll the craving for human flesh can cause someone trying to resist their urges.
I'm definitely getting ahead of myself. The film opens with a car driving throughout the countryside, and as a seemingly injured or otherwise disoriented person wanders into the road, the car crashes into a tree after swerving to avoid the figure. The figure then approaches the car, the title drops, and we then meet our protagonist as she's ordering food and makes it clear to us viewers that she is a vegetarian. Immediately afterwards, however, she finds a meatball in her potatoes; a seemingly meaningless occurrence that foreshadows much of what is to come.
The plot develops as you watch, so to save time and explanation I'll give a brief introductory summary now; Justine(played by Marillier) is a vegetarian on her way to veterinarian school, of which her older, neglectful sister already attends. Even as she is getting dropped off by her parents at the school, you can hear the dialogue riddled with foreshadowing. For instance, in the first few scenes the concept of "wanting out", or not having that choice, is playfully tossed around numerous times. When they are first pulling up to the school, the mother describes the buildings in an oddly chronological order; first school, the hospital, the morgue, and finally the grocery store.
So as Justine tries to spend her first night at her new boarding school she is awakened by her homosexual male roommate Adrien, who's pretty much just French Drake, followed by a group of older students forcing both of them into what appears to be a hazing ritual; which really just ended with them at a party. But one important relationship is established during the party scene, and that is the semi-careless and one sided relationship between Justine and her trainwreck of an older sister, Alex.
Shortly after this we are introduced the the real hazing ritual; the one that really sets the tone for the development of our Justine. In the previous party scene, Alex is showing her sister pictures of previous class photos, in which all the students are seated together wearing lab coats covered in what appears to be blood and guts. She makes it very apparent that this is a part of the initiation ritual and Justine accepts that with no big fret. What Alex does not reveal to her, however, is that following the class photo the "rookies", or new students being hazed, are forced to eat raw meat; rabbit kidney to be precise. As Justine protests, due to her choice to not eat meat, her sister is called over, and here we see the relationship between the two of them start to form as a stressor. Rather than her big sister supporting her decision, as she expected, Alex forces Justine to eat the raw kidney, and as Justine walks away with Adrien, gagging, she looks back at her sister with a newfound disgust.
At this point in most cannibalism movies we have our stressor. She ate raw meat; she's developed a taste for it. The character development in Raw, however, is so much deeper and can be found in every piece of dialogue offered throughout the film. The following scene, for example, follows Justine, Adrien and another student in the cafeteria. The conversation starts as a subliminally homophobic conversation about the origins of AIDS between Adrien and the third student, and quickly switches to show Justine's strong opinions that animals have every bit as much right to compassion as humans do, if not more. Her fellow students of course casually shrug off her argument, demonstrating a frustrating yet consistently shared view throughout modern society.
Justine's frustration of humanity's views on animal rights is something that is portrayed constantly throughout the film and something I can relate to very much on a personal level. Earlier in the film, there is a scene where they knock a horse out on Ketamine and proceed to take it away into an examination room. Justine's discomfort is very apparent in her face in this scene, and that night, after waking to find herself covered in rashes, she dreams of a horse trying to run on a treadmill. The horse is so bound up by restraints put in place by humans that the horse can not even shake it's mane. It's a very short, yet very powerful sequence.
After the kidney incident there were several small signs of her meat cravings beginning. She goes to see the nurse about her rash and after she is told it was due to food poisoning most likely from the kidney, Justine mentions that she is constantly hungry no matter how much she eats. Several days later, in the cafeteria, she longingly watches Adrien filling his plate with meat in front of her, and tries to steal a burger in her lab coat pocket. After being called out on the theft, she throws out the patty as discretely as possible, clearly very embarrassed about her inability to stick to her vegetarian routine.
After this, Adrien takes her out on the town so she can eat some meat in secrecy. At this point, there is clearly an odd relationship between Justine and Adrien building, although we as viewers are not sure exactly what that relationship is yet. As they are on the bus, they pass the scene of a car crash, where Justine gets a glimpse of what appears to be a corpse getting loaded into an ambulance. The score builds, her face changes and it's clearly that something about seeing that corpse struck something inside of her.
It's also worth mentioning, for the sake of character development, that Justine is essentially surrounded by shitty fucking people. Her close relationships aren't that great but it goes much further than that; from the constantly abusive elder classmates to the creeps at the rest stops; no one treats Justine very well nor the people around her. I think this is another technique the filmmakers have used to show that her development is just as much about her disdain for humanity as it is about "craving".
After her night filled with corpses and shitty truck drivers, Justine is found in the middle of the night diving into a piece of raw chicken breast in their common area. And here's our real turning point. Following this scene, a professor unnecessarily disgraces her because Adrien had cheated off a test of hers, she begins to get the shakes, eats a bunch of her own hair, and then rats out Adrien before pulling out clumps and clumps of her own hair from her throat into the toilet. This is one of those scenes where I could excuse someone for wanting to walk out, because it definitely put my own gag reflex to the test.
And let the cannibalism begin!
Justine has met up with Alex at this point and the two are doing their best to drunkenly get along. This leads back to Alex's place, after Justine mentions she "doesn't feel well" and asks to spend the night. Back at Alex's, Alex convinces Justine to try getting a Brazilian. Justine, a virgin, has been constantly thwarting people's comments about her sexual activity the entire film up until this point, another stressor in her new life at this new school. During the Brazilian, Justine changes her mind and after the argue, Alex loses her middle finger due to a completely accidental scissors incident.
Alex faints, Justine calls 911(well I'm sure it's not 911 in France I'm just really ignorant) and the dispatcher tells her to put the finger on ice and that they would be there in 15 minutes. Justine grabs the finger and goes for the ice; but there's no ice. So, naturally, she eats her sister's finger. Alex wakes up during the feasting, and watches in awe before Justine notices she's conscious. At the hospital, Alex blames the dog for eating her finger, all the while staring Justine down. This brings up another moral dilemma for Justine; as she is smoking a cigarette with her father outside of the hospital, her father informs her that the dog is going to be put down; for "once he has the taste of human flesh, he'll bite again".
Now things get really good. After leaving the hospital, Alex tells Justine she wants to talk to her, and crouches down in a ditch by the road side to do so. Instead of talking, however, Alex jumps in front of an oncoming car, causing said car to crash into a tree. The driver appears to be dead on impact, however the passenger is still twitching about. Justine is freaking out, and when she turns around she sees Alex's mouth covered in blood standing over the passenger saying, "he won't make it." Justine, however, does not accept her sister's sudden dedication to her, and instead walks away from the scene.
We see Justine's behavior drastically change after this point. The next day, as she is cutting upon a dead German Shephard, Adrien looks on in amazement as she does so without hesitation. After he tries to extend his condolences about Alex's finger, Justine says "it's just a finger" as she casually continues the dissection. After this, we start to see her cannibalistic tendencies take on a sexual aspect. The director has hinted towards her attraction towards her gay room mate, Adrien, the entire film, and here it really comes out at the same time as she really starts to lose it. She angrily watches him play soccer, staring down his body, and definitely wondering what it would taste like; resulting in a sudden nosebleed. It sounds petty but, it's a pretty intense scene.
So then the sexuality comes out. Previously having no interest in a sexual partner up until this point, we see Justine getting ready to seduce someone or other while listening to some crazy female French necromaniac rapper. To be perfectly honest, I feel like the movie could have really done without this scene. It's kind of funny, but I really don't know about it. I guess the point of it was the interruption; when she rips out her headphones and stares down her sister once realizing Alex was hanging out with Adrien.
Following an intense panic attack/withdrawal type nightmare, Justine wanders out of her room in the middle of the night and is unwillingly thrown into the middle of a weird paint/sex party with the same student she had problems with earlier in the lunchroom concerning animal rights. The paint sex part isn't really worth describing. Anyways, this is when she decided to eat part of his mouth. It was pretty fucking cool to be honest.
So then she fucks Adrien. And she has to try so hard not to eat him in the process that she ends up taking a bite out of her own wrist as she climaxes. The whole event ends up being a huge stressor for her, because she has been constantly falling for Adrien, confused as fuck herself, and Adrien is having a sexual identity crisis about his orientation and wants nothing to do with her. So now she really just wants to eat people. She gets drunk that night, tries to find some victims at a party, and then the scene abruptly ends with her blackout as Alex pulls open a drawer in the morgue.
I didn't mean for this to end up being so much of a summary. I have mentioned almost every scene in this movie, and I think it's largely because of how highly I value the film but how important I believe it is to note that the writers of this film made every single thing a stressor and/or trigger for Justine. The day after the blackout Adrien pulls Justine into a stall and shows her a video of Alex waving around the arm of the corpse from the night before in front of Justine's face. There's a huge crowd gathered around and Justine is clearly too fucked up to even realize there are people around her, and her older sister is taunting and mocking her in front of the entire school.
Justine has fucking had enough at this point and takes off for Alex is broad daylight. At the beginning of the fight, Alex takes a bite out of Justine's cheek, symbolically mocking her little sister. Alex walks away thinking it's done, but they ultimately just kind of end up starting to eat each other and coming to an understanding, in front of all their classmates.
That night, Alex tells Justine to lock her door. She doesn't. They wake up the next morning, their stupid hazing week has ended, Justine wakes up next to Adrien to the music and finds him dead with half his leg eaten and a hole in his back. She realizes that Alex has gotten much worse than her, and is to blame, and right as she's about to put a ski pole through her forehead, she changes her mind, and helps her wash up instead.
The ending I'm not as huge about. Mainly because I find it contradictory to the prior 90 minutes of development. But I guess some people like that, and it may have been their decision to try to make it more widely received. Anyways, Alex ends up in prison, Justine is home with her parents, Momma leaves the table and she's hanging out with Dad. And Dad reveals that Justine's mother is also a cannibal and that's it's a hereditary trait, and then the film abruptly ends. To me, that last few minutes ruins SO MUCH of what the movie was. I try to pretend it doesn't exist, and had actually forgotten about it until my second time watching it. Nearly every scene and piece of dialogue was presented as this stressor; an encourager that would evoke these tendencies without reverting to the classic instinct structure to the cannibal tale. And then they just threw that right back in there at the very end. I'm going to actually pretend it didn't happen, again.
That was definitely the longest film review I have ever written and maybe ever will write. As I said earlier, I didn't mean for it to become so much of a summary but that's how important I thought most of the scenes were. I'd call this film one of my favorite horror movies of the 21st century and that's saying quite a bit for me. And, as I said at the beginning, I certainly won't complain about listening to Garance Marillier speaking French in the future. If you've seen the film, let me know what you thought. If you haven't, I'm sorry you're still reading because you just read the entire plot. Watch it anyway though. It's that good.
My rating: 9/10
and I stand by it :)