2017, Addiction, Bad Behavior, Bad Girls, Cannibalism, Creepy Movies, Family Horror, Foreign Films, French CInema, French Horror, Gore!, Horror Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Psychological Thrillers, Suspense, Transmissions to Earth, VIOLENCE! 0
Transmissions to Earth Presents
Review by L.L. Soares
After it started getting some serious buzz at a few film festivals, I really wanted to see 2016 French-Belgian horror film RAW, and I was finally able to check it out on Amazon streaming.
I’ve been a fan of French horror for a while now, with several interesting directors coming from there, including Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (INSIDE, 2007), Pascal Laugier (MARTYRS, 2008), Xavier Gens (FRONTIER(S), 2007), David Moreau and Xavier Palud (THEM, 2006), and, of course, Alexandre Aja (HAUTE TENSION, 2003 and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 2006). Is relative newcomer Julia Ducournau (RAW is her first feature film) in the same league?
Well, it definitely has some interesting moments. We begin with Justine (a great Garance Marillier) being driven by her parents (Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss) to her first day of college. She wants to be a veterinarian, and her school is presumably one of the best in the field. Her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is also there, and is a few years older. Alexia was supposed to pick Justine up at a parking lot near the school, but their parents get impatient and leave Justine there. Alexia never shows up, but Justine gets to school on her own, anyway (why couldn’t her parents just drive her the whole way?).
Right away, the hazing begins. Freshman are referred to as “rookies” and are tormented. They are woken up in the middle of the night and their mattresses are thrown out the windows by older students wearing ski masks. They are huddled in groups and told to sit down, stand up, sing, etc. Alexia is one of the older crowd, and Justine looks to her for sympathy, but gets very little.
At one point, the veterinary students have to eat raw rabbit kidneys. Justine, a strict vegetarian, refuses, but her sister bullies her into eating it (“You can’t make me look bad!”). Soon after, Justine throws up, but the damage is done.
Justine starts out by stealing meat from the cafeteria (or tries to, she gets caught), and sneaking bites at night. Things escalate further when Alexia cuts off one of her fingers by accident while giving Justine a bikini wax (don’t ask) and Justine finds herself examining the digit, tasting it, and then devouring it (their poor dog, Quicky, gets the blame).
As Justine’s hunger becomes more voracious, she looks at her male roommate, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) with more and more lust (and another kind of hunger), but he’s gay. Meanwhile, Alexia tries to instruct Justine in ways to soothe her ravenous belly.
Written by and directed by Julia Ducournau, RAW is a mixed bag. The performances are good, but the storyline seems goofy at times, and some questions aren’t adequately answered. Also, the rookies are getting hazed throughout by the older students who randomly torment them, and I found this annoying as the movie went on, although I suppose it does add to the tension.
The only real adult we see, aside from the parents, is a professor (Jean-Louis Sbille) who accuses Justine of cheating at one point, and seems only here to pop up occasionally to berate her. There’s also a gross scene where Justine vomits up a lot of hair – long, stringy hair – which seems to be tied to a scene where the professor berates her and she’s nervously eating her hair (but she ate that much hair?)!
There’s also a big twist at the end that neither surprised nor scared me. But RAW is one of those movies where I was disappointed in it as I watched it, but that lingered in my memory afterwards. It’s clearly not a bad movie, it just has more of a haunting quality than a scary one, for me at least. I hope star Garance Marillier goes on to bigger fame, and I’ll be curious to see what Ducournau comes up with next. But ultimately, RAW failed to fully put me under its spell.
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
This has been a Transmission to Earth!