Review: Raw (2016)

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Raw, like many of the most effective horror films is successful because despite the fantastical nature of them – they actually reflect very real feelings and life events. Much press coverage has focused on the hysteria surrounding the film, concerning multiple faintings and other events that seem to occur fairly often with films destined for bigger things than festival runs and a VOD release. I should point out that ‘bigger’ things is not a value judgment in this sense but an acknowledgment of exposure and attention given to some films over others.

What is missing from the coverage of Raw is that it is actually an incredibly funny film which is far more reliant on the relationships between characters (especially the sisters at the centre of it) rather than the gory set pieces it offers.  Director Julia Ducournau has created a compelling film that deserves more than the ‘shock-horror’ label the production has been afforded.  The dark comedy elements are well-pitched in that they don’t remove the discomfort of the situation, but contribute greatly to the tone of the film.

Primarily Raw is about the awakening of female sexual desire in an environment that becomes a perfect storm of chaos and decadence. It is also a story about the relationship between two sisters strained by their differing positions in life. An easy comparison can be made to films like Ginger Snaps.  Justine (Garance Marillier) and Alexia (Ella Rumpf) are believable and appealing as sisters trying to find their way in the world, free from their parents.

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Female sexuality as a topic in horror films is common – some might even say cliché – but what is refreshing about Raw is that it doesn’t demonise any of the characters.  In the majority of films about dangerous female sexuality we view the transformation from afar, largely from the perspective of other characters – mostly male.  In contrast, in Raw, we are invited to engage directly in Justine’s experience, something that finds its most obvious presentation in which we are enclosed under the covers with her as she endures threats from outside her supposedly safe space.

The film I saw is very different to the one being spoken about. Press are describing a shock film when actually it is far more restrained than it could have been and carries a story about two girls undergoing the changes that come with the first taste of independence and freedom, wrapped up in a fantastic soundtrack and some suitably dreamy non-sequiturs for extra flavour.  The film marks Ducournau as a hugely exciting name to watch out for and I personally cannot wait to see what she does next.

Read more about Raw at http://www.focusfeatures.com/raw/

Raw is showing at the Abertoir Horror Festival on Friday 18th November at 10pm.  Go to www.abertoir.co.uk for more information and tickets.

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