Consider the title fair warning: Raw is not for the weak of stomach. A sinew-and-gristle meditation on sexual awakening and primal bloodlust, writer-director Julia Ducournau’s French import stars Garance Marillier as Justine — a virginal, 16-year-old veterinary-school student who’s subjected to brutal hazing rituals that lead to a nightmarish metamorphosis of Cronenbergian proportions. After being doused with animal blood and being forced to chow down on a gnarly rabbit kidney, the wide-eyed vegetarian develops a nasty full-body rash and then a sweet tooth for human flesh (the advance screening I saw had an early, vocal walkout). Think of it as Carrie meets Animal House meets Dawn of the Dead, with subtitles. Justine’s punky older sister Alexia (played by Ella Rumpf) tries to help her come to grips with her strange transformation, but her appetite can’t be tamed and won’t be denied. Soon, none of her classmates, including her thuggish gay roommate (Rabah Nait Oufella), are safe from her urges.
RELATED VIDEO: Feast your eyes on a NSFW clip from Raw
Fresh from the international festival circuit, Raw is unsettling and repulsive and, believe it or not, occasionally funny. It’s got audacity and style, and it packs an undeniably wicked punch. But Ducournau, in her feature-film debut, never quite figures out what to do with the provocatively gory metaphor she sets up. Instead, she just pours on more ketchup. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish there were a little more meat to chew on. B