Jun 23, 2019
Joseph: “Last time on One Movie Punch…”
Joseph: “And now, locked within the One Movie Punch Secret Podcasting Island Base Bunker...”
Andrew: “Joseph. What up? I’m late. But I got it. Here we
Joseph: *groggy groan*
Andrew: “The human-driven body-horror of 2016’s Raw...”
Joseph: “Mmmphdhmmm... blood everywhere...”
Andrew: “Joseph, when are we getting a review of this one?”
Joseph: “Muuhhh... didn’t mean to eat the finger...”
Andrew: “Your patron demands it...”
Joseph: *waking* “GAH! What the... those jerks!”
Joseph: “Been stuck in this bunker for a day so far. Nothing yet from Amy, but depending on how far they’ve blocked communications, probably can’t even get a signal out. Door held the initial assault, as designed, but now it’s a classic siege. Beef jerky, granola bars, and filtered water for me. I still have access to some cleverly hidden cameras, and have been watching their activities. Still not sure what they want. I’ve tried every method of communication, except...”
Joseph “I wonder if they’ve blocked the dedicated modem line to our dial up server. Is it possible that...”
Joseph: “It works! I’m only going to get one shot at this. Now, which movie should I...”
Andrew: “Your patron demands it!"
Joseph: “Okay, okay. But I want you to think long and hard about the emotional trauma I’m going to experience re-watching this film in the bunker. I’m sure it will take no time at all to send this file by modem, and will in no way take a week to finally posted. Saving this recording for the review.”
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “Raw”, the spectacular horror cannibal film written and directed by Julia Ducournau. The film follows strict vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier), a first-year veterinary student struggling to fit in at her older sister’s school. After a few hazing rituals, one of which involves her eating meat for the first time, Justine discovers she has an uncontrollable hunger for meat, along with some secrets within her family’s past and present.
Too many horror films, and quite a few other genre films, can usually only deliver a single-viewing experience. Once the film is “spoiled”, there’s usually no reason to return to the film, other than introducing it to others. One and done films normally leverage any of the built-in structures to deliver a decent, but standard experience. Tension, surprise, relief. Wash, rinse, repeat. And without that twist or surprise, there’s really nothing else to offer in the film. However, the best horror films are the ones where you can give away nearly all the plot without taking anything away from the film. I’m not saying walk someone through a film before they go and see it; the initial viewing is a precious and unique experience. I am saying, though, that the film generally has so many other great elements and themes that any spoilers worth mentioning are actually secondary to the experience. And let me tell you, “Raw” is saturated with great elements and themes.
Julia Ducournau’s cinema debut is not so much a horror film as a deftly concealed coming of age film. Justine’s journey to veterinary school comes at a time of great transition for college-bound adolescents, stepping out from underneath their parents’ wings, questioning their lives and their identities, and discovering so much about themselves, their parents, and the world. These themes form the core of the film, to which Ducournau weaves in the supporting horror elements. The real horrors of college hazing represent the often jarring entry towards independent life. Red blood on white lab coats represent the loss of identity and/or virginity. The divergent horror of cannibalism represents the conflicted feelings of sexual awakening, particularly from puritanical households. Marillier is excellent as Justine, navigating her journey from a naïve, innocent young girl to a much more confused and conflicted young woman, ultimately finding an identity she neither wants nor can run away from. Marillier dominates her performance so much that everyone else around her almost falls into the background, my one complaint about the film.
It’s not just a great script and excellent acting, however. Ducournau’s use of primary colors and lighting, particularly red and white, nearly always provides support for the underlying themes. You can really tell Ducournau has a unified vision for the film, making great effort to make sure everything harmonizes well and complements each other. This unified vision only intensifies the viewer’s willingness to suspend disbelief, and accepting all the events as they are happening, and with a deadly seriousness. Very few scenes linger longer than they need to, and tight spaces are used very well, especially in the final scenes. Every time I go back to the film, I appreciate it from a different angle, or for a different reason, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for Ducournau to write anything else that could feel as connected as this film ends up being.
“Raw” tells a coming-of-age story disguised as a horror story, wrapped in a college setting, and sprinkled throughout with themes about identity, family, food, and much, much more. Ducournau creates a prism, seeing different perspectives as the film turns, but still retaining the foundational themes with an excellent cast, well-paced storytelling, and complementary sets, costumes, and lighting. Horror and independent film fans have probably already seen this film, but if you haven’t yet, what are you even doing? Everyone else, if you don’t mind a little cannibalism, then the rewards are well worth the costs.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 81 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 9.2/10
“Raw” (2016) is rated R and is currently available forrent or purchase at major digital outlets.
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