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In the realm of horror, the two greatest sources of breakout hits in the modern era have been independent cinema and foreign films. Maybe it's just the way that other cultures and folks outside of the studio system think, but there's been some spectacular envelope pushing going on, and you can add Raw to the list of films that have joined the charge to make horror great again.
Justine (Garance Marillier) is about to embark on the most transformative experience in a young person's life: college. Fresh to a local veterinary program, her vegetarian code is breached when a hazing ritual forces her to ingest raw animal meat. That experience will change young Justine in ways she'd never imagined, as she starts to crave raw flesh, and she's starting to care less and less about where she gets it.
Not that Raw is trying to sell itself as a vegetarian message film. If anything, the plot point that Justine and her entire family are vegetarians is only to serve the film's story, and not as a commentary. But Justine's slow descent into animalistic hunger is mirrored as a coming of age experience, as she also explores her sexuality in tandem with the hunger, painting a darkly beautiful portrait of a young woman coming into her own.
And all throughout, Garance Marillier is a force to be reckoned with, as she plays both sides of the aisle with aplomb and verisimilitude that only serve to make her a creepier figure come the film's second and third act. There are actions, and even mere looks she throws into Raw's running time that make a lasting impression on the viewer. Her character's journey is fully fleshed out, and it's partially because of her sterling performance and also because of writer/director Julia Ducournau's impressive work on the film's content.
The most brilliant part about Raw is the fact that it exists in the horror genre, but doesn't totally submerge itself into the trappings and attitudes of said arena. This could have existed as a brilliant coming of age story with a quick re-write, and yet the aspects of the film's content that make it into a true horror film transform the film in appropriate measure. The objective of Raw isn't to merely shock, but to induce scares that cut straight to the bone, and boy do they ever, right down to the film's final frames.
Raw is a prime cut of horror that scares with surgical precision, and imagery that'll seer itself into your mind. Quite frankly, it's nothing short of bloody brilliant, despite it having more of a looser bound story than one would hope. But that's a minor quibble for a film that's gone to the places this has, and shown the images that they've gotten away with in this film. Raw flows so beautifully, swimming further into the darkness of its own heart with each morsel of terror it delivers its audience, and it's the type of film that rewards its audience with repeated viewings. This year's started off as a great year for horror and suspense, and Raw is just further proof that 2017 could be a banner year for people sleeping with the lights on.