Midnight Madness

Raw

Julia Ducournau

Raw 01

A shy, vegetarian student at a veterinary college develops an insatiable lust for flesh as the result of a gruesome hazing ritual, in this grisly and gory tale of a cannibalistic coming of age.

From the country that gave us steak tartare comes a grisly tale of female sexuality and cannibalism.

Shy 16-year-old Justine (Garance Marillier) is following in the footsteps of her entire family when she enrols at veterinary college, where she finds herself in the shadow of her distant and dismissive older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf ). To make matters worse, she is thrown into the humiliating traditions of the school's wild and vicious hazing rituals. A strict vegetarian like her parents, Justine is confronted with a moral dilemma when she must eat a raw rabbit liver as part of an initiation rite. She overcomes her revulsion and devours the meat — and immediately her life starts to go haywire. An angry rash develops all over her body. She is overtaken by unusual cravings. Her shy demeanour is broken by aggressive outbursts.

Something is very, very wrong with Justine. Barely equipped to handle the changes taking place in her mind and body, she has a gruelling internal battle to fight, while an escalating conflict with her sister leads to a gruesome showdown.

Writer-director Julia Ducournau's first feature is impressively lean and confident, grounded by Marillier's ferocious performance. Ducournau always knows where she's leading her hungry protagonist, and she punctuates the tense coming-of-age story with moments of brutality and gore. The outcome may prove disturbing even for seasoned horror fans, thanks to the work of French FX master Olivier Afonso (who was also responsible for Midnight Madness favourite À l'intérieur). Raw is a bold and bloody exploration of womanhood.

COLIN GEDDES

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