It's gonna be really hard for me to order lox salmon bagels for breakfast after watching actor Garance Marillier (Hotaru, Junior) eat an uncooked chicken breast straight from the fridge in Raw. Not because I’m a staunch animal rights inspired vegetarian, but because I watched an entire family of vegetarians turn into rabid flesh eaters in Julia Ducournau’s most twisted addition to Netflix’s horror roster.
Raw premiered to French audiences as Grave, so there were subtitles to be followed. But, as an appreciator of language learning, I thoroughly enjoyed this free, 99 minute French lesson.
Justine, played by Marillier, has recently fulfilled her family’s legacy by accepting her place in veterinary school and joining her older sister Alexia on campus. The movie details an aftermath of carnage as Justine succumbs to peer pressure and partakes in a wildly unethical hazing ritual: swallowing a piece of raw rabbit meat.
Quick to critique the lack of chainsaws and demonic spirits, I found myself asking midway through the intro, “What could be so scary about veterinary school?” But my roommate kindly noted, “It's barely even started yet.” I quickly got my answer. With the aid of an elaborate medical contraption, I watched 8 (real) vets flip a majestic racing horse upside down and empty its stomach. As a non-horse-but-still-meat eater, I can safely say I never want to bear witness to a horse’s hooves dangling above its head, ever again.
But it's this same brash approach to natural oddities that I love in Raw’s making. In countless scenes, Ducournau and cast tackle the script like predators to their prey. It can be seen in Justine’s pre-party mirror performance in which her newfound sexual energy finally unfolds. Sporting her older sister’s dress, we watch Justine smear on cheap lipstick and get loose to the Oties’ Plus Putes Que Toutes Les Putes – a befitting grungy track filled with sass and bass.
Ella Rumpf (Tiger Girl, The Divine Order) dug a ski pole straight through my heart in her portrayal as Justine’s rebellious older sister, Alexia. Rabah Nait Oufella (Nocturama, Girlhood) swallowed my heart whole as Justine’s hot, broody, yet caring gay roommate, Adrien.
Raw is the second project in which Ducournau and Marillier appear to have struck weird-women’s-writing gold, having also worked on Junior together in 2011. Ducournau received a lot of flack for Raw’s grisly interpretation of taboo topics (i.e. animal cruelty, cannibalism, bestiality), but she definitely isn’t receiving any from me. Yes, most of the shots are flesh inclined and the angles are pretty up close and personal (i.e, Justine’s first Brazilian wax), but overall I admired Ducournau’s candid directing eye and biting imagery.
The end even gives us a taste of what could be a bloody good sequel. Let's hope Ducournau doesn’t leave us hungry for more.