cannibalism

Raw

raw

A young girl begins her studies at a prestigious veterinary school that her whole family has attended. She was raised as a vegetarian but is forced to eat raw meat during a hazing ritual at the school. Her body reacts to the meat in an odd way, but now she has had a taste for meat and wants more. Once she gets her first taste of human flesh, there is no going back. From that moment on the girl’s life spirals out of control as her hunger grows.

A young girl coming into adulthood and discovering her own sexuality can be complicated and messy all on it’s own. Add to that a burgeoning hunger for human flesh, and things can escalate quickly. What I most enjoy about this plot is how it amplifies what is a normal coming-of-age story by adding the unique cannibalistic element. This young girl, Justine, is already an outsider because she is younger than her veterinary school peers, and therefore still developing into the woman she will become. She is even more of an outsider once she discovers her own unusual eating habits. Justine is alone and has no one to relate to. Even with her own sister attending the same school, she still has no one she can confide in as she goes through her many changes. This can be seen as a metaphor, as the desire to eat human flesh directly relates to her burgeoning sexual desire. It is very fitting that this film was written and directed by a woman, Julia Ducournau, because this is a theme that can only be accurately conveyed by someone who has experienced the changes a woman goes through. Ducournau’s storytelling makes it so you feel Justine’s isolation and confusion on her journey. As a woman it is impossible not to empathize with her, even with the added oddity of her dietary desires.

Obviously the cannibalism, and how it acts as a metaphor for Justine’s developing sexuality, is the driving force of this story. Yet it is also very much about the relationship between two sisters. While Justine is going through her whirlwind of changes she has her sister, Alexia, as a constant presence. Much of what Justine is going through Alexia has herself experienced, so one would expect Alexia to be her sister’s guide and confidant throughout everything. Unfortunately, their relationship is very much the definition of sibling rivalry. While the two love each other very much, they also hate each other like many sisters do. There is a breaking point in every relationship, and yet again the cannibalism acts as the catalyst that threatens to explode their sisterly bond. Many of the themes in Raw, such as the female journey to adulthood and the sibling relationship, feel reminiscent of one of my favorite horror films, Ginger Snaps

The performances by both sisters are delightful. Garance Marillier (Mange) is absolutely marvelous as Justine. She gives the audience a complete transformation from a naive young girl to a sexual, hungry being in a way that feels natural and somewhat visceral. Marillier also manages to feel like a relatable character throughout her transformation. Considering the more eccentric aspects of her metamorphosis, that is quite a feat. Ella Rumpf (Tiger Girl) acts as an excellent counterpoint to Justine as her sister, Alexia. Alexia’s personality is an interesting juxtaposition compared to Justine’s in how differently she responds to various situations. Rumpf’s performance is surprising on more than one occasion and keeps the audience guessing what she will do next. Marillier and Rumpf together create an extraordinary duo that displays the many facets of human nature.

Raw is a very visually stunning film. Of course it is going to have great practical effects as it is a cannibal film. The practical effects in the cannibal scenes are excellent, but they aren’t quite as over-the-top as much of the early buzz for Raw would suggest. It is surely grotesque, but nothing that horror fans haven’t seen before. While the various gory bits were very well done, I found the practical effects used to create the animals to be especially impressive. Since Justine is in veterinary school she obviously will have to dissect an animal at some point. There is a scene where a dog cadaver is dissected in one of the classes. This dog not only looks real on the outside, but on the inside as well.  These effects are great, but I found the cinematography and use of color throughout the film to be the most beautiful aspect of Raw. Many shots are done in such a way where there is chaos concurring all around but your eye still focuses on Justine and the silence within her. These shots are typically used to emphasize her isolation, even when she is surrounded by others. There is also a heavy use of blue and red tones in many scenes. This colors add beauty to scenes that might not otherwise be considered beautiful.

In recent years there has been an increase in horror films that provide an interesting take on the human experience. These films are intelligent, thought provoking, and often times focus on women and the trials they face. Along with the likes of It Follows and The Witch, Raw fits into this unique horror film niche. The coming-of-age story about a girl discovering her sexuality isn’t something one would typically consider horror, but horrific elements are added to the story as a mechanism to exacerbate emotions and events throughout the story. When you add the extra layer of cannibalism to the plot and use it as a metaphor, you get a horror film that forces audiences to see things in a new light. Raw is a beautifully told tale that is gruesome and, as a woman, very familiar. While this might not be what audiences typically expect from a horror film, it is what they should be asking for more of.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

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The Green Inferno

A group of college students venture to Peru to stop a logging company from destroying the rain forest and slaughtering a native tribe. After what seems like a successful trip, the plane the students are traveling home in crashes in the middle of the “green inferno.” Shortly after their crash, the coeds encounter the tribe they were trying to protect. Unfortunately, the tribe sees them as the enemy. It’s not long before the group realizes the tribe has a sinister plan for the crash survivors.

Eli Roth really knows how to make a cringeworthy film. His niche over the years has definitely been films that are not particularly scary, but they are incredibly suspenseful with lots of blood and guts. There were multiple instances in this film that made my skin crawl. The practical effects for those scenes looked absolutely amazing. There is one particular scene where you see lots of dismemberment and everything looks so lifelike it makes the scene a bit hard to watch. Despite the few scenes where there were large amounts of gore, I will say I’m surprised there wasn’t more gore. Especially from the previews, it seemed like the film was going to a be non-stop blood fest. You really only see maybe two or three deaths that are on the more gruesome side, while the others are hidden or done off-camera. While this bothered me at first, I’m realizing now that it may have been more due to the fact that Roth is maturing in his film style. The focus become more on the fight for survival as opposed to the horrific deaths.

Another aspect that shows Roth is growing in his range as a writer/director is the complexity of the story and the characters. When the film starts you think you know who the good guys and bad guys are. The students are the good guys, the loggers are the bad guys, and the people of the tribe are innocent bystanders. As the film continues these lines blur. You end up hating people you never expected, and others that you thought were bad people become heroes. The biggest blurred line relates to the tribe. While they are viciously killing the college students and eating them, none of this would have happened if the loggers weren’t encroaching on their land and killing their people. I also couldn’t help but wonder if the tribe would have done this to the group if they hadn’t been wearing the same jumpsuits the loggers wear. With the exception of a couple of the students, the tribe is almost the most innocent party in all this even though they are the cannibals.

When it comes to the part of the film that I didn’t like, it is hard to explain without giving spoilers. I will do my best not to reveal too much (I hate spoilers). As a whole, I thought the acting was very well done. Lorenza Izzo (Aftershock, Knock Knock) was great as Justine. The only person I thought made me cringe thanks to her acting was Sky Ferreira (Putty Hill). She played Justine’s sassy, sarcastic roommate in the beginning of the film. Her delivery was just so dry and forced that it pained me to watch her. Another issue I had related to the actors, but not necessarily the acting, is that three members of the group that travel to the rain forest were Chilean. If they had somehow explained how three people from Chile all ended up as students at the same school (maybe some special foreign exchange program) I wouldn’t have minded much. It just seemed odd, especially since they were all from the same country instead of different ones.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy in this movie were some rather random things that happened throughout the film that seemed out of place. Again, I’m trying not to give too much away. At one point there is a particular character that you grow to hate more and more as the film goes on. At one point he does something sexual while in captivity that I assume is there to make you hate him even more, but just makes absolutely no sense when considering what else is going on. This is also, I assume, supposed to be one of the many humorous moments that they add in throughout the movie. Generally I love when horror films add a bit of humor, but this scene came out more as creepy and out of place than funny. One of the death scenes even came about in what was meant to be humorous circumstances, but it made the scene very cheesy for me. The one thing that bothered me the most was the very last scene that comes in a bit after the credits start rolling. I won’t go into too much detail of the content of the scene, but it was an odd choice. It felt like an afterthought. I don’t believe it is something that would or could ever happen in real life, and it appeared to be forced in to give the option of a sequel.

After how long it took for this film to come out I am so happy to have finally seen it. I’d say that as a whole this was a successful project by Eli Roth. There are obviously aspects of the film that did not work within the context of the story. There are even times where it detracts from the story a bit (especially that last scene during the credits). Looking past this, the film is still fun, intense, and will make your skin crawl. If you’re on the squeamish side, consider yourself warned.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10