Empire (Australasia) - - Contents -



DI­REC­TOR Julia Du­cour­nau

CAST Garance Mar­il­lier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella

PLOT Timid Jus­tine (Mar­il­lier), raised a strict veg­e­tar­ian, un­der­goes se­vere haz­ing when she be­comes a stu­dent vet. Forced by her sis­ter Alexia (Rumpf) to eat raw rab­bit’s kid­ney, she dis­cov­ers strange new car­niv­o­rous crav­ings.

IF IT WERE just about vet­eri­nary school ini­ti­a­tion rites, writer-di­rec­tor Julia Du­cour­nau’s Raw — the English-lan­guage re­lease ti­tle of­fers as many mean­ings as the orig­i­nal French Grave — would be un­set­tling and shock­ing enough. On her first night in a hall of res­i­dence, re­pressed rookie Jus­tine (Mar­il­lier) and her new room­mate, gre­gar­i­ous gay guy Adrien (Nait Oufella), are both hauled out of bed by vet­eran stu­dents who act like masked ter­ror­ists. All the fresh­ers are made to crawl slowly through a car park in night-clothes to a rau­cous rave — one of many se­quences here in which peo­ple are re­duced to act­ing (and suf­fer­ing) like an­i­mals. Later, the whole class is doused in blood Carrie-style and have to wear stained whites to lec­tures — while Jus­tine’s own older sis­ter Alexia (Rumpf) makes her eat an uniden­ti­fi­able lump of pick­led meat she’s told is a rab­bit’s kid­ney. The haz­ing gets even more per­sonal as girls and boys are sloshed with blue and yel­low paint re­spec­tively, then told to go into a room and not come out ’til they’re all green.

Amid all this An­i­mal House/jack­ass busi­ness, vir­ginal veg­e­tar­ian Jus­tine’s awak­en­ing to the joys of eat­ing meat might al­most go un­no­ticed if it weren’t for the gleam in her eye as she goes from be­ing nau­se­ated when a stray meat­ball turns up in her mashed pota­toes to pock­et­ing a burger, sneak­ing out for shawarma and gaz­ing long­ingly at spilled blood. Af­ter a Cro­nen­ber­gian rash has peeled off her like a snake­skin, her mood swings and odd crav­ings — such as eat­ing and sick­ing up her own hair — be­come more ex­treme. The film tips its hand in an as­ton­ish­ing se­quence as a bizarre ac­ci­dent leads to Jus­tine’s sis­ter Alexia snip­ping off her own fin­ger. With a jolly dog around to shoul­der the blame, Jus­tine takes ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion to have a taste.

Af­ter that, there’s no go­ing back to hum­mus, and Alexia, who has al­ready un­der­gone her own away-from-home trans­for­ma­tion, shows her sis­ter ways of satisfying her hunger, but longsim­mer­ing fam­ily ten­sions (and that gnawed fin­ger) mean the re­la­tion­ship has star­tling downs be­tween the gen­uinely mov­ing ups. As of­ten in classy hor­ror, turn­ing into a mon­ster also means sex­ual lib­er­a­tion, with Jus­tine ex­plor­ing the far reaches of sex­u­al­ity — though horny stu­dent guys (even the­o­ret­i­cally not-in­ter­ested Adrien) soon find she’s more preda­tor than prey.

Jus­tine and Alexia are never ex­plic­itly char­ac­terised as su­per­nat­u­ral crea­tures, but the sis­ters — af­fect­ingly por­trayed by new­com­ers Garance Mar­il­lier (who first played Jus­tine in Du­cour­nau’s short, Ju­nior) and Ella Rumpf — owe a kin­ship with (mostly fe­male) movie mon­sters like the French gourmet vam­pires of Trou­ble Every Day and the Cana­dian were­wolf sis­ters of Ginger Snaps. Du­cour­nau turns an un­flinch­ing cam­era eye on phys­i­cal pro­cesses, as the sis­ters bond by try­ing to pee stand­ing up and a very un-james Her­riot se­quence in­volves that old vet standby of an arm up a cow’s rec­tum. Of­ten, Raw seems mer­ci­fully to elide hor­rors which take place be­tween scenes only for a phone-video clip or a turned-back sheet to show the worst. And then there’s

Joana Preiss and Lau­rent Lu­cas, who contribute tiny, creep­ily per­fect per­for­mances as the girls’ par­ents. It turns out, de­spite its body hor­ror cre­den­tials, it’s also a ten­der, sub­tle film about fam­ily.


VERDICT A classy French-bel­gian hor­ror with an un­usual fe­male per­spec­tive on mon­strous taboos. Shock­ing but not sen­sa­tion­al­ist, this is a strong can­ni­bal movie worth chew­ing over.

Garance Mar­il­lier gets hazed, Carrie-style.

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