Raw ★★★★

What are you hungry for?

Julia Ducournau's feature debut is utterly gorgeous, stomach-churning cinema. It is very much of the school what you do see - if done right - is absolutely scarier. And, I know that every notable feature debut is slapped with this trite praise, but Ducournau's newest feels so assured in its footing that, had I known nothing going in, I would have assumed that she was a veteran horror director.

Justine, a star vegetarian veterinary student begins to crave the taste of flesh after enduring a particularly gross hazing ritual during the first days of the semester. What ensues is a gradually downward-spiraling odyssey of nauseatingly brilliant practical effects, increasingly insane revelations, and masterfully shot absurdity. Ducournau treads so confidently between straight-edged gross out horror and genuinely effective comedy (sometimes crossing the streams to spectacular effect), that the often disparate tones never clash even in the slightest. To the contrary, they complement each other tastefully (maybe not the best adjective).

Raw isn't a perfect movie though. In its final scene, after we're still reeling from the dizzying climax, Ducournau pulls a Psycho and sits us down to serve us backstory. It's not nearly as stilted as in Hitchcock's psychiatric explication, but it's just as unnecessary. And, in that moment, I couldn't help but feel the film had lost a bit of its luster. Part of what makes the film so hypnotically delirious is that it doesn't explain precisely why what is happening is happening. And, that complements the coming-of-age tale trappings that the film wears. The final moments rob the film of that lingering mystery.

Still, this is one of the most electrifying horror films I've seen since The Neon Demon last year (though, I don't mean to suggest that they are totally similar tonally). I give Raw a 4/5. Perhaps don't check this out if you have a weak stomach; otherwise, this is a must.

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