Getting adjusted to college life can bring out the monster in all of us. Julia Ducornau’s “Raw” just makes that a little more vivid and terrifying by adding in an element of cannibalism as a metaphor for the suppressed true self. (Yes, you read that right.)
The film begins with Justine (Garance Marillier) arriving quietly at veterinary school with the kind of milquetoast blandness that indicates a lack of self-confidence. She’s the type to wander the party alone – no judgment; I can definitely relate. Her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), an upperclassman, does her best to gently nudge Justine to break out of her shell. When that fails, she takes more drastic steps towards humiliation and mortification.
Alexia means her actions with the kind of tough familial love we all come to expect from siblings, but they begin to have immediate physical consequences for Justine. Like a nagging rash, vomiting hair and more. The family condition involves a taste for their fellow humans awakened by flesh contact, a sadistically difficult thing to avoid when surrounded by the blood and meat of animals … not to mention the normal carnal desires of young people packed into tight living quarters.
Ducornau does a fine job balancing the two faces of “Raw,” both the specifics of its body horror and the generalities of its collegiate angst. She’s not afraid to indulge in a moment of pure discomfort or a little levity. (For more on the latter aspect – shameless plug – check out my piece from Fantastic Fest comparing it to critical cause célèbre “Toni Erdmann.”) And, as always, the scariest element is no one moment but simply the dawning realization of the aberrant desires pent up inside ourselves. B+ /