This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nick J’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Join film club, I said. It's going to be lots of fun and you'll meet new people, I said. You're going to engage with movies outside your usual taste, I said. Oh, if only someone could've warned me just how outside my usual taste this film would go. If there's one feature I would recommend Letterboxd to implement, is that the actual verb "watched" could be customizable. There's a difference between "Nick Johnson watched Raw" and "Nick Johnson squirmed in his seat, covered his eyes, and got up a few times during Raw."
Let's get it out of the way: on a cinematic and technical level, it's fine. Score, editing, camerawork, lighting, it all ranges from adequate to pretty good. Big props for the PlayStation 4 controllers actually being turned on. Nothing too distractingly bad.
Turns out I have a couple more phobias beyond bees, poorly animated CGI skeletons, shady neighborhoods, exercising in public, and my swole ex-girlfriend. These are school culture and relatable body horror, and it was this film twisting my nerve like it was a game of Bop It to help me realize that. It's been about 4 months since I graduated from college and the amount of crap from high school and college that I have repressed already is astonishing. I breathe a deep sigh of relief every time I think about how I don't have to deal with due dates, roommates, terrible college parties, and people who can't mind their own fucking business. I don't like to use the word "triggered," I understand people take that word much more seriously than I do, but I have no idea how else to describe how I felt watching a Nazi-like cult of frat boys and sorority girls dump blood on freshmen in this clear callback to "Carrie," another coming-of-age horror movie. The college is as claustrophobic and obnoxious as I remember my own college experiences to be and I'm pretty sure director Julia Ducournau hates the college experience just as much as I do. And if that wasn't horrible enough, Ducournau makes a spectacle of just how horrible and disgusting living things are.
"Relatable body horror" is the term we gotta use to describe this. Unlike, say, "Eraserhead," "The Thing," or "Under the Skin," where the horror/fascination comes from how manipulated and horrible they can make something that looks human but with something clearly wrong appear, the body horror in "Raw" is based solely on phenomena that is all too real and horrible. Every horrible image hit so much harder than I had anticipated, from the rash to the Brazilian wax to the cow, and I was yelping in my seat so much that I had to turn on "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" so it appeared to my family that I was yelping because World of Light is fucking bullshit rather than the horrors French cinema have unleashed on us regular folk. Also, it was nice to be able to look away at something made for babies like me when things got really gross in the film.
If it sounds like I had a horrible experience and you're questioning why this has four stars, it was because the actual storytelling was riveting. Garance Marillier has a likable, mousy screen presence that is twisted so much in what essentially is a story about a girl becoming a monster, figuratively and literally. It's an engaging allegory of a young naive girl being swept up in the shitstorm of college culture and the pressures transforming her into an oversexualized, unrecognizable freak, gaining a literal and figurative taste for man meat that causes her to act violently and irrationally. It also becomes a story of a "family curse," the vices of a mother passed onto her daughters that, now in an environment without parental supervision, they have to deal with and give into the same vices. Justine and Alexia have such a nice dynamic, both uniting together and tearing each other apart due to these mutual horrible experiences, and those final few sequences with them interacting with each other with little dialogue, whether fighting so dirty that ECW wrestlers would blush or Justine cleaning Alexia up in the shower with both being dazed and frightened from how far they went for their craving, are great. I just love that final shower scene (No, not for the reasons that you think, you fucking perv) because of how it rhymes with the shower scenes from "Psycho," not just where Marion Crane is stabbed to death and her blood fills the shower, but also the scene where Norman has to clean up Mother's mess and how hectic it can become to protect the family members you love dearly.
It's not a love-hate relationship with this movie, more like an "I love fucked-up coming of age stories but I don't love gagging for an hour and half." I don't recommend this unless you like really weird shit; it's such a poignant message that anyone with recent college/high school experience can relate to but in the worst possible packaging. I will only recommend this to people looking to "cure" their vore fetish. This and "Krampus" will do nicely.