By Scott Dorward
Raw (France, 2016)
Back when we discussed Martyrs on the podcast, we touched upon the New French Extremity movement. This was a lively period in French cinema when a disparate group of filmmakers produced some of the most bloody, transgressive and brutal horror committed to celluloid. Sadly, it was short-lived, and had pretty much petered out by the 2010s. Some critics, however, have identified Raw as a late entry. While Raw is indeed bloody and transgressive, is it nasty enough to earn its place in the movement?
Justine has been raised a strict vegetarian. When a restaurant accidentally serves a meatball with her mashed potatoes, her mother becomes enraged, shouting at the staff. This seems to be normal in her strict, weird family.
Such restrictions fall away when Justine matriculates at the veterinary college as her older sister, Alexia, attends. As well as the usual freshman temptations of drink, drugs and all-night parties, Justine is introduced to meat as part of a hazing ritual. After some initially alarming physiological reactions, Justine finds herself hungering for flesh, preferably raw.
An unfortunate accident leads Justine to realise that it is not just any meat she crave, but human flesh. How is she going to feed this new appetite? Who is going to get hurt in the process? And why is none of this a surprise to her sister?
I wasn’t expecting Raw to be so funny. The friends I’ve spoken to about found it shocking and disgusting. While there are some toe-curling scenes, there is also a lot of black comedy in Raw. It knows that some of the more extreme scenes might provoke laughs and leans into this. At the same time, when it wants to be nasty, it is. The humour doesn’t undermine the horror one bit.
It was weird watching Raw so soon after Frightmare. While the two films could hardly be more different tonally, they do share a central conceit beyond the broader theme of cannibalism. I wonder if Justine and her family would be interested in joining my study into caribanthropy….
As I hinted in my introduction, I’m not sure I’d count Raw as part of the New French Extremity movement. While it is gory and violent, it lacks a certain emotional brutality that I associate with films like Martyrs, Inside or Frontier(e)s. This is not in any way a criticism, however. Raw, despite its blood and guts, handles its protagonist with compassion, showing us her vulnerability along with her monstrousness.
Even if we were to ignore the cannibalism, or at least look away politely while Justine dines, Raw would be a very watchable coming-of-age story. Justine is an interesting enough character even without her unwholesome appetites. She is a bright student but socially inept, being drawn out of her shell by internal and external forces. We can’t help but root for her, even when she is eating people.
Raw is definitely a highlight in what has already proved to be a month of excellent films. It’s definitely worth settling down with Justine for an evening’s entertainment. Just don’t let her get blood in your popcorn.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Possessor (2020)
- The Boogey Man (1980)
- Jakob’s Wife (2021)
- The Queen of Black Magic (2019)
- Cold Hell (2017)
- Seance (2021)
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
- Dachra (2018)
- Isle of the Dead (1945)
- After Midnight (2019)
- The Baby (1973)
- Hagazussa (2017)
- Frightmare (1974)
- The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
- Dave Made a Maze (2017)
- Raw (2016)
- The Old Ways (2020)
- Terror Train (1980)
- mon mon mon MONSTERS (2017)
- Sator (2019)
- Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
- The Lighthouse (2019)
- Anything For Jackson (2020)
- Warning: Do Not Play (Amjeon) (2019)
- Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
- The Field Guide to Evil (2019)
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
- The Wizard of Gore (1970)
- Fingers (2019)
- Lake Bodom (2016)
- Island of Lost Souls (1932)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!