Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Directed by: Julie Ducournau
Having read several accounts of the mess this low budget French/Belgium horror flick had been making of the stomachs of less stalwart reviewers on the festival circuit, I was very keen to see coming of age cannibal movie Raw at the Glasgow Film Festival this year.
And I have to say I loved it.
The concept of using horror tropes to express fears associated with pubertys, burgeoning sexuality and the passage from childhood to adulthood is nothing new. From Curse of the Werewolf to Teen Wolf, Dracula to Vamp, horror provides the perfect vehicle for conveying the uncomfortable, often painful, weirdness of sprouting hair in new places (a phenomenon beautifully parodied in Raw, incidentally, whilst also serving to progress the plot perfectly) and suddenly desiring things that have previously seemed disgusting, unnatural or taboo.
Justine (Garance Marillier) is a shy, virginal, grade-A student who has just arrived at vet school. During one of many ghastly hazing exercises she and her fellow freshers (or 'rookies') are forced to undergo, this committed vegetarian must swallow a raw rabbit liver. And this tiny, unwanted taste of flesh unleashes something primeval and uncontrollable within her. Alternately protected and tormented by her wild elder sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), Justine must balance her attempts to fit into a strange new environment with a terrible new hunger that threatens to destroy her, a predicament perfectly encapsulated in a scene in which, dressed in a cocktail frock donated by Alexia, Justine sways in front of a full length mirror to a pornographic rap track, mesmerised and enraptured by her own familiar yet unfamiliar reflection.
On one level, Raw is a fairly grisly movie about eating people. But on another it's a beautifully crafted, sensitive insight into what it's like to be young in the 21st century, torn between peer pressures to conform and raging hormonal desires – with the added threat of any mistake you make instantly going viral on YouTube. Forget Unfriended, Friend Request or any of the other Facebook fear flicks that have surfaced recently – this is the best object lesson in why social media is not your friend yet. (Oh, and don't get me started on the bad parenting it exposes...!)
Engrossing and occasionally shocking, Raw is teen horror at its best: heartfelt, thought-provoking and, yeah, a little bit gross...