Sunday, October 29, 2017

Film Review: Raw (2016)

Raw (Review)
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"...a coming-of-age horror story with compelling themes and some grotesque visuals."

After a hazing event at her vet school, lifelong vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) experiences a horrifying transformation...

Raw is a coming-of-age horror-drama—interesting combination, right? The plot follows Justine, a young, lifelong vegetarian. She shows up at her vet school where Alexia (Ella Rumpf), her older sister, guides her through the hazing ritual. This ritual happens to include the consumption of raw rabbit kidney. After consuming said kidney, Justine begins to feel sick, then she begins to crave raw flesh—animal and human. Although the film doesn't feature any jaw-dropping twists, it is a film that I believe works better if you know less about it before watching it. So, I won't spoil anything else. It leads to a underwhelming climax and a simple but effective ending.

Raw is a great experience. The plot is disturbing and creative. It is a multi-layered film. On the surface, it is a violent film about cannibalism. It's not as over-the-top as Cannibal Holocaust, but it is an interesting depiction of cannibalism. Beyond the surface, the film covers themes of sexuality as well femininity/masculinity and self-identity. The characters are interesting, although they're not exactly the deepest. Justine's transformation was wonderful to experience. In terms of horror, this film is atmospheric and tense. It doesn't rely on jump-scares like so many horror films these days. It's not a film for everyone, though. Director Julia Ducournau opts for the 'artsy' approach—for lack of a better term. So, the film has those moments where some scenes linger for far too long for little reason. This inflates the runtime and slows the already slow pace.

(Note: I understand some of these scenes have a purpose, but they often don't resonate, especially when the same style of scene repeats itself. In my opinion, the master of art house films is Kim Ki-duk, and this doesn't quite match his level.)

The acting was great, though. Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf perform very well in their roles. Marillier was especially impressive, hitting a wide range of emotions without overacting. The film was beautifully shot, too, and the music was fantastic. The cinematography and music reminded me of classic Italian horror movies—Argento kept creeping up in my head. The film was written and directed by Julia Ducournau. Ducournau's writing and direction were great. In terms of writing, I liked the plot, the characters, and the themes. It all feels natural and authentic. There is a voice in the writing, and it's loud and proud. The direction is also great, focusing on atmosphere and tension instead of jump-scares. However, there are some dull moments in the film due to the "art-house approach," which also hurts the slow pace, as I already stated.

Overall, Raw is a great film. It is a coming-of-age horror story with compelling themes and some grotesque visuals. It's also immersive and engaging thanks to its style and atmosphere. The immersion is occasionally broken due to some unnecessarily long scenes, but it's otherwise great. If you're a fan of the genre, check it out. Even if you're not interested, at least check out the music—I loved it!

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, sex and nudity.

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