When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
Those who were around in the 1970’s remember hearing the stories about people passing out in theaters and having seizures while watching The Exorcist. News reports showed ambulances outside movie houses. Some of those same events are surrounding the new drama RAW. The only difference is that The Exorcist was actually horrific. Raw may be hype only.
The story has a fantastic premise about a young, devout vegetarian, Justine (Garance Marillier), heading off to Veterinarian school. She is there only a few days when during a freshman hazing event is forced to eat a small bit of raw meat. Justine soon begins to have adverse reactions and a dark craving stirs within. Not to give too much away but let’s just say she no longer orders the tofu at dinner.
The movie is getting rave reviews from early screenings and events like Fantastic Fest. It is being called fresh, innovative, groundbreaking, and phenomenal. The issue is that all the rumors surrounding the content may make it bit of a letdown. I expected a visceral reaction and a stomach churning adventure. Instead I found it predictable and cliche with only about ten minutes of anything I would consider brutally raw. There is a lot of tension and expectation. Writer/Director Julia Ducournau is able to create these moments expertly through the use of framing and camera work. There is a creepy vibe surrounding the whole thing which she needs to get credit for. But other than that it is almost immediately forgettable.
Maybe it is unfair to judge a film by its hype. Perhaps if I had seen this with no earlier influence I would have enjoyed it more for what it is. It is possible that those barely old enough to be admitted into an R rated film will be shocked and nauseated by what takes place in those brief gore moments. Others will find it trite, manipulative and sad to say funny. I actually laughed out-loud during one of the more gruesome scenes. Obviously it was meant as shock value and tip toes the line of manipulative.
Remove all the hype and attempts at gore though and you are left with a compelling and unique twist on a young girl’s journey into a new world. Meat could easily be a metaphor and represent all those things that are offered to us during our coming of age. We all remember being on our own for the first time. Leaving the family nest to head off to work or college. Everyone has to face new challenges and deal with options and opportunities. Looking back we can see how our family and upbringing shape the people we become. And that is hard to overcome but each of us have to find a way to persevere.
RAW is rated R for aberrant behavior, bloody and grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, language and drug use/partying. It is an adult film and certainly not for the squeamish. The sex, partying, and language is on par for most R rated films set in the college realm. To truly enjoy this film you need to go in looking for an experiment into the human development and not a horror/thriller. You may appreciate it more. In other words, don’t buy into the hype. I give it 3 out of 5 chicken strips. Sadly, it is not filet mignon.