When we’re children we’re not in control of our bodies. We’re constantly being fussed from one point to another, told to stand still, instructed on how to dress and what part needs to be scrubbed clean. That lack of control can be terrifying.
Even more terrifying is that when we become adults, we realize we still have no control over our bodies. They take on urges we cannot control and lead us to make stupid decisions. They’re not as invulnerable as we once thought.
Julia Decournau’s disturbing new horror film Raw strikes a nerve because it so accurately captures the onset of that realization. The film, a French-Belgian production, is the kind of art-house horror that works both on a visceral and intellectual level.
Raw follows Justine, a straight-laced vegetarian on her first semester at veterinary college. Away from home for the first time, she’s subjected to a rough bout of hazing that culminates with her being taunted into eating a raw rabbit kidney. Rather than saving her from the torment, her older sister Alexia — also a student at the school — actually forces the nasty bit into her mouth.
What follows is a dreamlike descent in which Justine’s bodily discovery, including her budding sexual awakening, become conflated with the consumption of raw meat. A painful bikini wax at the hands of her sister leads to her first taste of human flesh — and, from there, her tumble into madness seems inevitable. Again and again, adult desires cross the line into cannibalism.
And when Justine watches her older sister suffer from a more advanced version of the same affliction, it evokes our experiences seeing family members succumb to sickness. As their health declines, we know the same eventually will happen to us… Maybe not next year, or next decade, but at some point in our lives.
Plenty of horror movies have explored the cannibalism trope, often in silly ways that rely more on blood and shock than real emotion. In Raw, the disquiet runs deeper than the gore. The wound is raw because the wound is real.
Review by Scott A. Cupp
This is the 129th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films
This is my recommendation of the week. If you like the sort of films I review here, you should go out and find this film right now. Don’t even bother to read this review. Just go see the film. You will thank me later. I’ve watched this one twice in the last two months and purchased the DVD. That should give you some idea of my love of this movie.
Those who have already seen this film know what I am talking about. Such a fun film. Our title character (and she is a character) is a journalist working in France in 1912. Her exploits are read by ardent admirers. She is smart, sassy, daring and unafraid of the consequences of her actions.
I don’t want to really summarize the film. That might detract from your enjoyment. Let me just mention a few of the things you will encounter – a pterodactyl, an Egyptian tomb, animated mummies, a beautiful young girl in a hatpin induced coma, betrayal, explosions, Ramses II, attempted prison breaks, drunks, stupid big game hunters, over-worked and underfed policemen, a firing squad, a guillotine beheading, the Louvre, the President of France, people wrapped alive in mummy trappings and canoeing inside a sarcophagus. And there are some apes at the end, but only briefly.
I know I had most of you at pterodactyl or mummies.
The DVD case compares the film to “Amelie meets Indiana Jones.” That is not an unfair comparison but still not very adequate. Director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita) takes several graphic novels of Jacques Tardi about Adele and makes a fine adaptation. Actress Louise Bourgoin does a fine job as Adele. I would watch other films with her in the lead.
The downside of Adele is that it is foreign and all the dialogue is French, so you have to read the film. That’s never a problem with me, as too many years of loud rock and roll has deprived me of some hearing and I frequently have subtitles on when watching films and TV, particularly if there is a British production involved. Some accents do not translate well with my ears, unless accompanied by screaming guitars.
Seriously, go watch this film. The ending certainly sets up the premise for a sequel but, to date, none has arrived.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.