Scott Bailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
"You taste like curry"
I just had to get a second bite of this film before feeling able to express my honest thoughts on this one just because I was genuinely taken by surprise by it. It's more than just a film about cannibalism. It's also a multi layered film about a destructive family relationship, as well as being about being in an environment where getting routinely bullied is just seen as socially acceptable and living under the constant challenge of giving in to peer pressure and urges that affect everyone you care about. At least that's what I got out of it. It's a horror film that is structured a lot more like an art house film, and that leaves a lot to interpretation once its over.
A very impressive directorial debut from Julia Docournau, Raw is about a 16 year old Justine who comes from a family of vegetarians, and also goes to veterinary school to follow in her parents footsteps, and also joining her sister Alex, who has been there for a year. Justine and every new student is subjected to a week of hazing rituals where they are consistently humiliated by the older students, which included a pretty awesome nod to Brian De Palma's classic film, Carrie and she is pushed to her breaking point when she is forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney liver, which fuels her desire to eat raw meat and flesh.
Raw is consistently intense and disturbing throughout the entire runtime, and to be honest I was wary of seeing this because of the rumours that the content is so graphic that its made people faint and feel physically ill. I don't enjoy movies like that personally, and I have to say I didn't see anything anywhere as bad as that here. Content wise it is no worse than something like David Cronenberg's classic body horror films in the 80's. If you can handle stuff like that, then I don't see why a film like Raw would be a step too far. It is disturbing for sure and there are scenes that will shock, but it isn't gratuitous in my opinion. In fact there was other scenes that disturbed me a more than the cannibalism scenes, such as when Justine has a horrible looking rash all over her just after the raw meat scene. That one definitely had me wincing. The effects in scenes like that look pretty damn impressive!
The atmosphere is consistent as well. The hazing rituals aren't just something that happens once and then it's forgotten, it is prevalent and feels important to the story throughout. I absolutely loved the volatile relationship between the two sisters and of course the visuals and cinematography look amazing. Another thing that stands out is the music and score. First off, French hip hop is hilariously obscene when you read the lyrics on screen. Second, the musical score is beautifully composed and somehow has a good range from relaxing to being devilishly disturbing. The very first cannibalism scene where Justine realises she can't suppress her desire for flesh and blood and then that main theme kicks in, it is so perfectly executed I get goosebumps. It is a brilliant scene.
The performances are outstanding. Garance Marillier in particular shines as Justine in my opinion, and her transformation is something special to watch. She just looks naturally innocent and naïve and really plays on that a lot and I was genuinely surprised at how sympathetic I felt for her. Her performance brings a whole new meaning to the term 'coming of age' because as the film progresses it is like watching someone truly blossom. Ella Rumpf also gives an outstanding performance as her sister Alex and some of the best scenes in the movie are whenever those two share the screen. They have a wonderful chemistry together and I loved how unpredictable things get between them. It genuinely took me by surprise how funny this movie could be as well as being uncomfortably tense and I think that is because the both act like real sisters. I completely brought the tender moments as well as the violent moments, because the characters simply felt honest to me. I thought Rabah Nait Oufella also excellent as Adrien, who is Justine's homosexual roommate and I really enjoyed watching how their relationship naturally develops throughout.
I have to admit there is still a lot of things I'm processing, even after watching it twice. I have to say it's really grown on me quite a lot and its one of those refreshing experiences took me by surprise to the point where I never knew what to expect. I will definitely be looking out for more films from Julia Docournau because this is a very confident debut film.
That scene where Alex catches Justine eating her severed finger is bloody hilarious :)