It is the week of viewing films I have yet to see that have earned nominations in the 2017 Fright Meter Awards, today (well a few days back when I wrote this post) is the day of Raw: a French language horror that is up for Best Makeup. This is the second film I have seen this week that I recognise as a good film yet did not enjoy watching, though for different reasons than with Personal Shopper.
16 year old Justine (Garance Marillier) has gone to start vet school, it is the same place that her wild older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) attends. Justine has been a vegetarian her whole life but during a hazing ritual she is made to eat meat. This has a bizarre effect on her as she discovers a side to her that she never knew existed, and soon she finds herself hungry for meat of any kind...
I do not enjoy gross horror films, I also do not like cringe worthy moments in any sort of media, and Raw has plenty of those moments, so many that I lost count of the times I had to pause the film and look away grimacing. Film like this are the very reason I made the rule not to eat food of any kind while watching horror as this really put me off wanting any dinner today. I'm giving this movie a low score and that is no slight to it, it is just it made me feel really queasy watching it which is not a nice feeling, it is not something made for me to watch. First of all the whole setting of the vet school was horrifying to me in that the newbies are put through awful ordeals such as having buckets of blood thrown over them, paint thrown over them, made to crawl around on all fours, and mattresses thrown out their windows. This is all extroverted fun I am sure but I would just want to curl up in a cupboard and hide for the entire week.
The gross out moments come from the fact that Justine pretty much becomes a cannibal, or at the very least gets a taste for human flesh after eating some during a darkly comic sequence involving wax strips, her sister, and a pair of scissors. There are plenty of scenes of her retching up, and plenty of scenes of her coated in blood, as well as plenty of animal carcasses (this is a vet school after all). This is coupled with some awkward sex scenes, and public humiliation that I just couldn't cope with. The horror aspect is subdued in a way, yet when it occurs it is quite disturbing, such as when a fatal car crash is caused so that a character can lick the wounds of the deceased, or when a character wakes up in bed next to a partially consumed corpse. It is testament to the make-up how authentic this all looks though to how ill it all made me feel.
In a lot of ways this can be seen as a film about growing up, Justine arrives at the films start having been moulded by her strict parents (including Laurent Lucas from The Returned as her dad). By the films end she has broken out of her upbringing and became her own person by a baptism of fire, by suffering, by loss, and by forging her own identity. It could also be seen as a film about drug use, Alexia introducing her to this new way of life, one that comes with it scenes of extreme withdrawal shares similarities with narcotic abuse. I liked how grounded everything that happens is, it would have been easy to turn Justine and Alexia into some sort of stupid vampire like creatures, instead they are normal people, just ones who have an uncontrollable urge for long pig. This gives the movie a sense of believability which is helped by Marillier and Rumpf's performances. While this film has a huge cast the people who matter only come down to a handful, with Justine's room mate Adrien becoming a confidante to the increasingly wild and isolated girl.
Raw is a good movie that loses nothing at all for being in French due to great subtitles that help you miss nothing. For me though I didn't enjoy watching it, I think it is easier to make people feel ill than it is to scare people, Raw isn't designed to scare, but it is a nice analogy for coming of age and is certainly something different, Heathers for the current age.