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ADVANCE: Raw - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

Have you always dreamed of seeing a young woman cough up a long, slimy, slick strand of her own hair? Have I got the movie for you! Or, okay, maybe you want something that very nearly defies categorization, maybe barely qualifies as horror? Okay, perhaps more than barely. This movie has its moments of being horrifically disgusting, I'll give it that. But it's not presented just for shock value. It is very much its own thing.

I left Raw feeling grateful that I did not eat right before walking into it. And even when it comes to its gross-out scenes, it's a movie that's conscientious about how it presents its plot turns. There's something weirdly respectable about its competent pacing. Some might even go into it wondering when something horrifying is actually going to happen. Well, just wait. Awful things come to those who wait, just as good things do.

The concept is deceptively simple on the surface: Justine (Garance Marillier) is the youngest daughter in a family of vegetarians, being sent off to veterinary school for her first year, where her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) already attends. As a Freshman, or in the words of the people in this movie, a "rookie," Justine must endure a week of hazing rituals, many of which are partly perpetrated by Alexia.

One of the things they have to do is eat a raw rabbit liver. I guess Justine's desire to fit in far outstrips her lifelong vegetarianism, but whatever. I'd be like, "Fuck that noise," but I guess if Justine had the same attitude, we wouldn't get this disturbingly memorable movie.

Much could be made of this family as vegetarians, a concept ripe for skewering but which writer-director Julia Ducournau wisely uses as no more than a minor plot point, which in the end makes perfectly sense as a choice for these people. In the opening scene, Justine and her parents have gone out to dinner, and her mom gets even more upset than she does when a piece of meat is found in her mashed potatoes. These insufferable vegetarians! That's what some people viewing this movie might jump to. But that's not really what the story is getting at here.

The thing is, Justine has an odd reaction after having that raw liver. She finds herself increasingly craving meat of all kinds, but especially -- you guessed it! -- raw. And then, far further into the film than most writers would wait for and yet it's a scene that frankly no one would want to rush into, Raw goes where most other movies would fear to tread. It involves an accident involving scissors and her sister's finger. We're talking images that will take an effort to scrub from memory. But also, in its way, kind of funny. Or maybe you just laugh out of sheer discomfort.

If there is any genuine thrill to Raw -- and, depending on how truly sick and twisted you are, then the thrill is there -- it is because of its impressively unpredictable plot. Even once you realize where the story is going, it veers into areas you don't expect. This is a story expertly unraveled, in a way that paces itself. It never quite overwhelms the viewer, but more than once, it's fucking disgusting. But in a fun way!

I did find myself thinking about the script's apparent refusal to offer an explanation for Justine's increasingly terrifying behavior. But then an explanation, of sorts, is presented in the film's parting shot -- one of the cleverest endings to a film in recent memory. The longer you consider it, the more impressive the overall story structure here becomes. Rarely is something so gross so satisfying. Presumably Justine often found herself thinking exactly the same thing.

Garance Marillier develops a taste for meat in RAW.

Overall: B+

Opens March 31 at the Egyptian Theatre.
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