Justine is starting her freshman year at veterinary school, along with her older sister Alex. The two girls grew up with strict parents who raised them as vegans. During the freshman hazing, Justine is forced to taste raw meat, and as a result of this she develops a strong craving for more.
This French horror film is the latest entry into the cannibal horror subgenre. Apart from its great amount of praise, I’ve also read of different reports where people at screenings have vomited or passed out, and some theaters even gave out barf bags. For me personally, I didn’t find this really that incredibly gross. Previous films such as Bite and even Green Inferno (which I didn’t care for or find that gross) had more gross-out moments. There definitely were some uncomfortable moments and cringe-worthy scenes in Raw, but nothing dramatic enough to make you want to puke or pass out. But in all honesty, this movie doesn’t need super gross out moments to be as great as it was. Sure it can be nasty due to the subject matter, but this works perfectly as a psychological horror. The horror of it all stems from seeing Justine as this quiet and shy freshman, and then we see her becoming more and more deranged and pretty terrifying. You could even say that we see her becoming less and less human and into more of this deadly predator. Not only is she becoming cannibalistic, but she’s also awakening her sexuality, leading to some extremely erotic behavior blended in with the horror.
To help boost the horror, the terrific cinematography can often times be beautiful and then quickly turn to nightmare in nature in how scenes are film and the imagery provided (and we can definitely thank the director Julia Ducournau for her great vision). But it’s the incredible performance of Garance Marillier as Justine who brings the horror to life. Marillier’s whole performance is just so flawless in how she captures the innocence of Justine in the beginning and shows her gradual change to madness. She captures the cravings Justine is feeling in facial expressions and even better physical performances. Some of my favorite moments however are when she really gives it all she has to show Justine’s animalistic side. Plain and simple, it’s Marillier’s performance that brings us the true horror of the film in Justine descent to madness. Ella Rumpf also provides a solid performances as Justine’s sister who gives a performance where we are unsure whether we should trust or even like her. Rabah Nait Oufella is easily the most likable character as Justine’s roommate Adrien. He brings a huge amount of likability to the role in how he looks out for Justine, but also how he is becoming fearful of her as she becomes more crazed.
If you are going to watch Raw thinking it’s going to be a huge gore-fest because of it being a cannibal movie, you’ll probably be disappointed. But I would still highly encourage you to watch it because of the true horror lying in its story, direction, imagery, and especially the performance of our lead. There are still some good gore scenes and cringe worthy moments though. This is easily one of the best horror films of the year.