in Shocktober

Shocktober: Raw (2016)

I chose this movie basically to see whether I would want to check out Titane, the other recently released Julia Ducournau film, before the end of the year. While I don’t regret seeing Raw, it pretty definitively gives me my verdict that I do not want to see Titane. Raw is a movie that is certainly effective and pushes your buttons in all sorts of ways, but it’s just not what I want out of a movie. I mentioned in my review of Goodnight Mommy that there was a specific scene in which I had to put my hands over my eyes, and I probably spent a quarter of Raw’s running time doing that. I know that’s a pretty pathetic thing for a grown man to be doing, but Jesus Christ this movie got under my sweet delicious skin.

Raw centers on Justine (Garance Marillier), a lifelong vegetarian who is about to embark on veterinary school, which also happens to be the same school that her sister Alexa (Ella Rumpf) is going to. When she arrives there, she quickly finds that the school is very big on hazing rituals and dividing up the different years into separate tribes basically. In one of the hazing rituals, Justine is forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys, which gives her a horrible reaction that leaves rashes all over her body. She then starts to have a craving for meat, tearing into a gas station sandwich and some raw chicken.

There’s then a scene where Alexa is giving Justine a bikini wax, which ends with Alexa’s finger being cut off by a pair of scissors. Or at least I think that’s what happened, since I had my own fingers over my eyes for most of that scene. Anyways, Justine starts to eat Alexa’s severed finger and while everyone is disgusted by what Justine did, Alexa isn’t that phased by it. We then learn that Alexa also has an eternal craving for human flesh, so she starts to teach Justine her ways, which leads to Justine becoming more and more addicted to man-meat.

A big reason why this movie is so disturbing is that a lot of it is conceived like a pretty straight coming-of-age drama. But, you know, with scenes of puking up hair and dead people getting knawed on. There’s also plenty going on as far as subtext, as Justine’s addiction to flesh is also a metaphor for drinking, drug addiction, and the general party atmosphere that is many people’s college experience. Also, the way that Justine wrestles with her meat addiction feels closely intertwined with what her body does and does not want. It makes me think that women may be better suited to make movies in the body horror genre, since women generally have a more complicated relationship with their bodies than men do.

This also leads me to believe that a woman could probably break down Raw’s visceral storytelling better than I could. So maybe go read a review of this movie by a woman, since I was just so fucking put off by this movie that I think yelled “No!” at my TV after it ended. I just don’t think I can really articulate that well why this movie so successfully navigates the body horror genre, even if the movie has lingered with me in a more favorable way than when I was watching it. I’m pretty sure if I had seen it in theaters, I might have walked out on it. So yeah, I feel a little defeated by ending this woman-centric Shocktober by saying “I don’t know what to do with this movie”, but again, maybe go read a woman film writer who can articulate it better? All I know is Raw is a prime example that a female director can unsettle the shit out of you in a distinctly feminine way, and that the future of the woman horror director has limitless potential.