Julia Ducournau’s debut film, Raw, is a deliciously affecting coming-of-age horror drama about a young woman who develops a taste for human meat. Over the course of a week, during veterinary school hazing, staunch vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) finds herself in the midst of an identity crisis; her head saying ‘no’ to food that once lived, but her heart and gut crying out for a feast of flesh.
Justine is like many young people starting college – nervous, excited, desperate to fit in with her peers whilst making her superstar parents proud. She is also naively optimistic. When initiation rituals begin, she is vastly out of her depth, being made to humiliate and debase herself for the amusement of seniors. Told if she isn’t ‘in’, doesn’t do what is asked of her, she is ‘out’, Justine eats (after forceful coercion) raw rabbit liver. And thus begins her descent onto a path more bloody.
Marillier is hypnotic as Justine. She perfectly personifies the virginal innocence of the character and her metamorphosis into an animalistic being ruled by her baser urges. In a particularly intimate waxing scene, she falls upon the opportunity to experience the most forbidden of fruit, and Marillier presents a host of emotions, ranging from denial and disgust, to curiosity and bloodlust, to ultimately orgasmic satisfaction. One scene that really stands out is Justine’s self-seduction, as she watches herself gyrate in the mirror and smooches her reflection, listening to Plus Putes que toutes les Putes by Orties. She is experimenting with her newly-found self. And it is utterly mesmerising.
If ever there were an equivalent of the exact opposite of a moral compass, it would be Justine’s older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf). One of the poster taglines is ‘SISTERS – BOUND BY LOVE TORN BY FLESH!’ And for all of the cannibalism, Raw is actually tender story about two sisters. They fight each other, they support each other, they annoy each other, and most importantly, they love each other. Rumpf is magnetic as the devilish, anarchic Alexia. She is frank and funny, and like many ‘big sisters’, is simultaneously exasperated by and protective of her younger sibling.
For ‘Month of Spooks’ I wanted to focus on horror films directed by women, and could think of no better place to start than writer/director Julia Ducournau’s debut, which has lauded a number of prestigious prizes at film festivals around that world, as well as being a firm favourite amongst critics and audiences alike. I was transfixed from start to finish, thrilled and disgusted to the point of chills and goosebumps. I could write reams and reams about the subtleties and brilliance in the writing, and the beauty and nuance in the shooting, but instead I will keep this short and sweet: if you watch only one horror film this spooky season, make it this. A humourous, heartbreaking, tasty treat, that you won’t live to regret indulging in.
THE DEETS Release Date: 7 Apr, 2017 Film Length: 1hr 29mins Genre: Drama, Horror BASH RATING: 8/10