Film Reviews

Raw – Blu-ray Review

For anyone curious about what the ‘New French Extremity’ might be, Raw is a perfect example of this new style of French film-making that includes In My Skin, Pola X and Frontieres. Raw is a horrible – rather than explicitly horror – movie. A coming of age story steeped in animalism, blood, violence and sex, centred around one girl’s first week at a veterinary school and the changes that she goes through.

Written and directed by Julia Ducournau (Mange, Titane), it tells the story of Justine (Garance Marillier – Titane, Warning), a lifelong vegetarian who has just started her first year at veterinary school. The new students are forced to participate in a week of hazing by the older students, part of which involves consuming a piece of raw rabbit kidney. Originally refusing, Justine is forced into eating it by her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf – War, Tiger Girl). After this, Justine first develops an itchy rash all over her body, followed by strange cravings for meat that kebabs and raw chicken can’t satisfy…

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Touching on issues of sexual awakening, animal rights, teenage rebellion, peer pressure, parental expectations and more, Raw manages to make its lead character relatable and sympathetic even as her life spirals out of control around her. The pressure to do well, to please our parents, sibling relationships, struggles with self-identity and self-image, these are all themes that most of us can identify with in one way or another. All this, however, would be pointless if we didn’t empathise and sympathise with the lead character and Garance Marillier’s performance shines. Her performance is nuanced and believable, as much about the physicality of the role as it is the dialogue.

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The performance and cinematography is helped along by a gloriously haunting soundtrack by Jim Williams (A Field in England, Possessor) that only helps to hammer home the atmosphere of dread and oppression that permeates every second of this film’s runtime. You can find it on Spotify and it’s well worth a listen in its own right, veering from beautiful, ethereal guitar pieces to ominous organs and pounding drums.

In terms of this new standard edition release, Second Sight continue to impress. Raw is another top-notch offering. This edition misses out on the slipcase, booklet and art cards from the Limited Edition, but it looks like almost all the special features are included here except for the alternate opening and the trailers.

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There are two audio commentary tracks, interviews with the cast and crew, a video essay from film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Australian Premiere Introduction and Q&A, deleted scenes, and a featurette called ‘Raw À Votre Goût’. The commentaries are worth checking out, even if there were times I desperately wished they’d boosted the audio for Julia Ducournau. She comes across as very quiet at times. I personally preferred the other commentary track with Alexandra West; she’s very informative and entertaining to listen to.

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Raw is not a perfect film by any stretch. There are a couple of scenes that don’t seem to precisely go anywhere, and I wasn’t aware that veterinary schools were allowed to have a morgue for dead people as well as animals, but hey, it’s France. Maybe that’s just how they do things over there. Where Raw excels is in being – well, raw. It’s a visceral and deeply uncomfortable watch thanks, in no small part, to Garance Marillier’s amazing performance. Backed with a great array of special features, this is another film that absolutely deserves a place in any horror fan’s collection.

Raw is out now on Blu-ray from Second Sight.

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