Raw: Beyond The Hype

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I rarely go see horror films in theaters. I think there is something to be said for sitting in a dark room, alone with a good horror flick. You experience your own fear, in your own way, without the influence of nervous laughter, or ambient theater noise, because that’s what a good horror movie is, an experience.

What motivated me to see Raw in the theater was it’s limited release, coupled with the buzz it’s been generating online. Four awards including the Citizen Kane Award and Cannes. Audiences vomiting and fainting in theaters. Heralded as “gruesome nightmare fuel” barely skirting an NC-17 rating and the only plot reveal was something about a coming of age story, paired with cannibalism. I was intrigued and the moment it hit my local indie theater, I had my ticket.

I watched the trailer over and over again and got chills each time. I mean, look at this thing and tell me you’re not creeped out:

I managed to scrounge up some local horror nerds and the date was set. I went into the theater expecting to be nauseated by the graphic scenes. The girl at the ticket counter said she couldn’t bring herself to watch the whole thing, even the usher who announced the film, warned the audience that we should keep our popcorn bags ready to catch the vomit. I was fearing the worst and thought this movie would be something to wear as a badge of honor.

“I saw Raw, in theaters and survived.”

Well I did survive, but the truth is that Raw isn’t really raw at all. We all agreed that the gore, while prevalent throughout the film, was decorative at best. Some scenes teased at truly horrific events, only to cutaway at the last second. Aside from the obviously grotesque displays of cannibalism, there really wasn’t much to find disturbing about the film. The bad news is, if you’re looking for a vomit inducing shocker film, this isn’t it. The good news is that, it is so much more than that.

It’s so rare to see strong female leads in horror films, who come across as real and vulnerable without being weak. The main protagonist, Justine, walks this line perfectly. She starts the film as an innocent, naive little girl and comes out the other side a savage of her own making. I won’t get into spoilers, because the film is still in theaters and I want everyone to go see it, but suffice it to say that this is a character driven story, and a well done one at that. The characters are extremely well acted, which is impressive given their age and lack of tenure. The writing is engaging and unnerving, the twist ending sneaks up on you, but isn’t so abrupt that you feel totally lost. The film has a good pace, without dragging along. Every scene feels purposeful and every line reads with a deeper meaning.

Let’s talk about the cinematography. Even though I went into this movie already wincing, I didn’t miss the gore. The clever usage of light and color, makes the audience feel as if they are in a constant dream nightmare state. You never really know what’s real and what’s a hallucination. As Justine descends deeper into madness, the environment around her changes. I will have to watch this film again to catch-all the nuances, but the more I think about it, the more I realize the subtle changes in the color of the walls, the changes in lighting, the props in the background at the clubs, the fact that the sun never shines outside, are all details designed to make you feel more and more uneasy. This film does not rely on jump scares and loud noises to unnerve you, it doesn’t need to. The subject matter is enough, and it artfully drags you in.

Overall my little crew of horror nerds and I give this movie an 8/10. Honestly, if I had gone into the theater with more realistic expectations, that rating may have been higher and might still be higher after a second or third viewing.

Don’t fall victim to my misconceptions about this film. Heed the warning of director/writer Julia Ducournau:

“Just because I love horror movies, it doesn’t mean I think that my movie is one. Raw wasn’t written to scare people. To make them uneasy, to disturb them? Yes. But to scare them? No. I watch horror movies almost every day. It’s not a gore-fest. If I had wanted to show only the gory moments of the girls eating bodies, I could have done that. My movie is more of a crossover between comedy-drama and body horror. I use different types of film grammar, so I don’t think it fits into one particular box. I don’t want people to expect scares because they’ll be disappointed.”

To read the rest the above interview: Click Here. It’s worth the read and will give some great insight into what this film really is.

Needless to say, Julia is on my must watch list. I am excited to see what she churns out next!

If you are looking for a truly disturbing, straight up horror film about cannibalism you should check out We Are, What We Are, although it doesn’t give quite the same level of satisfaction, it will help you scratch that itch.

Check back for my review of A Girl Walks Home At Night. A mix of film noir and horror that is supposed to be incredible.

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