Raw is a French-Belgium film written and directed by Julia Ducournau, at her debut behind the camera in a feature-length film.
Substantially marketed as the new Martyrs (2009), according to the legend that people fainted and puked in the earliest screenings, audiences went into Raw expecting an extremely violent, gruesome horror film filled with stomach-turning scenes and I-can’t-watch-this moments.
Instead, Ducournau’s film is a coming-of-age tale with cannibalism elements thrown in the mix.
Raw tells the story of rookie student and lifelong vegetarian Justine, who arrives at a veterinary school to start college. A college that looks more like a prison, where the rookies are bullied and obligated to go through different and messed-up challenges. One of those consists of eating a raw rabbit kidney, which Justine refuses to do, at first, and then reluctantly accepts pushed by her older sister Alexia.
From that moment on, Justine develops an insane passion for raw meat that definitely goes too far…
Despite Raw was mis-marketed and the trailers made it look a restless run throughout violence and blood, it’s been acclaimed by audience and critics as one of the best horror movies in recent years.
In all honesty, I struggle to understand why.
Extremely slow-paced, the plot drags from scene to scene, with elongated shots, slow – and quite unrealistic – dialogues, nauseous sequences of rave parties where stroboscopic lightening and delirious music that will give you nothing but migraine.
Also, the acting is quite slow and somewhat frustrating; whether it’s because of the script or the cast’s skills, every character in this movie is unlikable. Although, to be fair, Garance Marillier (who portrays Justine) conveys a wide range of emotions and carries the plot along fairly well.
However, my biggest issues with Raw consist of more than that.
First of all, everything looks highly implausible. I know, I know: it’s a horror-drama about cannibalism, I shouldn’t expect everything to make sense. Nonetheless, as I stated previously in other reviews, each and every single element should be realistic within the universe of a film. And, in this regard, Raw fails on every level: the unexplained absence of adults, the rampant craziness of the students – who do drugs, destroy facilities, throw food to each other without being stopped by any form of security, the constant lack of explanations make for a very unreliable story.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand that the director went for the dream-like, somewhat oneiric route. Nevertheless, this premise might work in a movie like It Follows (2014), set in a timeless and undefined world, but it doesn’t in Raw, where the audience is supposed to believe the plot is taking place in contemporary times.
Which is my second biggest issue with this film. Its atmosphere, backed up by cinematography and photography, makes for an artsy film that is artsy-fartsy for the pure sake of it. In other words, it looks frustratingly pretentious and tries too hard to set itself apart from the other horror flicks.
Again, I must reiterate that I’ve got no problem with artsy horror movies (The Eyes of my Mother – is one of my favourite films in 2017), but the style must be supported by strong and effective contents. Otherwise, the product is a flop. And, sorry to say that, Raw is a flop – at least in my opinion.
However, there are a couple of redeeming qualities, namely the first plot twist – there is also a second one at the very end, but it’s predictable and, again, unsatisfying. Also, the locations are amazing and the fact that the entire movie was shot on location is to be praised.
Furthermore, the absence of false-scares and the lack of gratuitous brutality are a pleasant surprise.
Nevertheless, the standout in Raw is the score: one of the best I’ve listened to the whole year, but unfortunately inadequate to the film. Still, I recommend everyone to download it, it’s worth listening to!
Overall, though, Raw is a quite boring film, featuring an unbalanced pace, senseless sequences, disappointing acting and an uninteresting story. Sincerely, I found it very overhyped and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, unless you want to watch it purely out of curiosity. Cheers!