31 Days of Halloween — Day 8: Raw (2017) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - Raw 2016

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

It’s been 10 years since the release of “Inside,” and nine since “Martyrs” hit the scene, but with 2016’s “Raw,” writer / director Julia Ducournau has proven the French still have an “appetite” for the extreme (pun intended… and my apologies).

Justine (Garance Marillier), a lifelong vegetarian, is one of many new students at a prestigious veterinary school, the very institution her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) now attends. At first, Justine, who is incredibly smart and a little shy, has a hard time fitting in; aside from her gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), she hasn’t been able to make any friends.

Then, during a freshman hazing ritual, Justine is forced to eat a raw rabbit liver. Having never consumed meat before, she has an allergic reaction and breaks out in a nasty rash. But this tiny piece of liver does more than make her itch; it changes her life. All at once, Justine develops a yearning for meat (mostly raw), and it isn’t long before her newfound appetite takes a disturbing turn.

Is Justine truly a freak of nature (as she believes), or did she come by her bizarre new cravings honestly?

“Raw” is a visceral genre film of the highest order, a picture drenched in blood and dripping with carnage. But like “Inside” and “Martyrs” before it, “Raw” is much more than the sum of its gore sequences; whereas, “Inside” was ultimately about dealing with loss, and “Martyrs” presented a search for a higher truth, “Raw” tells the story of a girl who has found her true self. Having escaped the strict regimen imposed on her by her vegetarian parents, Justine consumes meat for the first time, and it has an overwhelming effect on her.

Suddenly, Justine can’t get enough raw meat, whether human or otherwise (a scene involving a severed finger is arguably the most uncomfortable in the entire film). But it’s more than just the food she now eats. Justine’s personality also evolves; the withdrawn, demure girl who arrived at school gradually disappears, and an outgoing young woman exploring her own sexuality takes her place (Justine even manages to lure the openly gay Adrien into her bed). Eating meat hasn’t just expanded her dietary options, however; it’s also unlocked her true potential, and as we will discover later in the film, the cravings Justine now experiences have had a similar effect on others.

Ella Rumpf delivers a solid performance as Alexia, the elder sibling who tries (and more often than not fails) to take Justine under her wing, but it’s Garance Marillier’s turn as Justine, the frightened teenager forced to confront some unpleasant truths about herself, who steals the show. Early on, we sympathize with Justine, a brilliant but reserved student whose experience with raw meat sparks an emotional evolution within, transforming her from a girl into a young woman, ready to face the world. Marillier perfectly conveys these two extremes of her character’s personality (introvert and self-confident party girl), and despite her abnormal “appetites,” Justine remains, at all times, the film’s most sympathetic character.

Simultaneously savage and unflinching, “Raw” is guaranteed to give your gag reflex a workout. But it also relates what could very well be the most unique coming-of-age tale ever conceived, and this particular aspect of the movie will, I’m sure, prove every bit as memorable as the moments that will make you turn away in disgust.

—Dr. Shock

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6 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 8: Raw (2017) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 08 – I, Madman

    Up until recently, I had never even heard of the late 80s film, I, Madman. Thanks to the Movies with Ron Podcast’s review of it, ended up causing me to have some interest in checking it out. Despite the fact that I, Madman was an unknown film for me, the main people involved in the film are all from much more well known horror films. Starting with the director, Tibor Takács, who is best known for directing The Gate. The writer, David Chaskin, wrote the infamous A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. The two main stars, were also in bigger 80s horror movies for both Virginia (Jenny Wright – Near Dark) and Richard (Clayton Rohner – April’s Fools Day). Although the actor who portrayed the villain, Dr. Kessler (Randall William Cook) didn’t act much, Cook was better known for his effects work, working on such 80s films as Ghostbusters, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Fright Night, and Poltergeist 2. I find it a bit interesting how I’m unaware of a certain film, but everyone involved has been in a lot of memorable horror films from the past.

    I loved the look of the monster Dr. Kessler. Throughout the movie, Kessler slowly gains new parts to fill up his nearly empty face. At the beginning of the film, Kessler is forced to cover up nearly his entire face due to not having a scalp, lips, nose, or ears. With each kill, he gains a new missing part. Rather than looking like Frank from Hellraiser, where he slowly looks normal again, Kessler looks like a version of Frankenstein’s Monster, all of these new head parts being lazily stitched together. The end result is that this nasty looking monster is constantly changing up his look, making each time we see him, something special. His final look is my favorite of Kessler’s versions due to being able to notice every new part on his face and how they’re all the right parts where they should be, but they’re all different skin tones and shapes that shouldn’t be together.

    Although he’s written as the main love interest, and I presume the audience is supposed to like him, I ended up disliking Richard more than even Kessler. From the first meeting we get with Richard, he’s immediately mocking Virginia’s love of horror fiction and instructing her that she should stop. Acting as if Virginia shouldn’t be reading such trash. I can identify with the frustration of someone telling you to “Knock off with this horror crap” when it’s really none of their business. The fact that Virginia and Richard are still in a pretty new relationship, only dating for six weeks, and he’s having this attitude already, is just making him out to be a controlling partner that horror fans will likely all dislike. Although Richard does slowly accept that Virginia’s claims of the book she’s reading is coming alive, at no point does Richard ever seem as if he’s had a change of heart to horror or accepting Virginia’s love of it. Screw Richard.

    The final big kill from Kessler is the most frustrating part of the film for me. By now, Virginia is now convinced that she knows what Kessler is up to thanks to reading excerpts from the book, but she mistakenly thinks Kessler will show up at the library, hoping to kill the librarian. The big unexpected twist is that Kessler actually goes after Virginia’s best friend, Mona, at the bookstore that Mona and Virginia works at. From the moment that Virginia reads aloud from the book to get an idea of where Kessler is heading to, it’s obvious that Mona will be the target. Everything points to Mona based on every scene involving Mona set up some element of the clue, from the cat, the books, and to longing for love. So to have this big scene where Virginia and the police set up a sting to catch Kessler at the library feels like a waste of time since the viewer knows nothing is going to happen.

    With such a simple, yet fantastical plot, I felt the film would have worked out better had it just been an episode in an anthology horror series. For example, this would have made for a perfect episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Replacing Virginia with a kid would have also made for a more believable plot of the main character believing that their horror stories are coming true while the adults aren’t believing in such claims. The length of the story would have faired better in thirty minutes rather than ninety as well.

    Rating: 6.5/10

  2. Great review of Raw Dave. I remember after I watched it a while back thinking it was well done and thought povoking but unsure if what type of film I would classify it as. At times it felt like a straight ahead drama film, other times a documentary of college life in France, with some elements of Animal House thrown in. It is not a straight ahead cannibal film, and aat times has the feel of a dark vampire type film. But yes, there is horror. Thematically it works as a horror film, and the viciousness of the acts themselves and the taboo nature of the subject gives the film horrific elements. It just seemed those acts were too spread out for me yet I wanted to keep watching. For me, there are scenes of thiss film which will stay with me for a while and I guess that is the sign of a good film. I am just not sure what genre I would classify it.

  3. I just watched my horror for the day and felt compelled to share. I just watched the Mexican horror/fantasy We Are The Flesh. I will not give key points away, but after watching this movie all I can say is wow, but not necessarily in a good way but in a kind of a wtf did I just watch kind of way. Part surrealist film, part art house, visually stunning, the story is all over the place. It is about people seemingly surviving in a building after an apocalypse, but is it really? I felt I was watching a new Jodorowsky films with some of Suspiria mixed in, and some je ne ce’est quoi. Has anyone seen this? Dr. Shock, I would be interested in your take of this film or anyone else.

    • I’ve seen We Are The Flesh, Bill. Oh, boy! I think you described it well. It’s definitely a film that makes a visceral impact and sticks with you for a while.

  4. Day 8: Trick or Treat (1986)

    Trick or Treat follows high school metalhead Eddie Weinbauer (Marc Price) as he navigates through high school bullies and supernatural attacks. There are lots of heavy metal references for fans of the genre and great original music by Fastway and Christopher Young. If you’re not a fan of heavy metal that’s okay, this movie even works just as a 1980’s high school halloween film. There’s a school dance, halloween decorations, and pure 80’s nostalgia. Trick or Treat is a really fun film to watch and deserves more fans. 7/10

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