Raw made headlines last year when attendees at the Toronto International Film Festival reportedly fainted during a midnight screening of the teen cannibal horror movie. Fortunately, critics saw the film and lived to write about it.
“Consider the title fair warning: Raw is not for the weak of stomach,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes among the latest batch of reviews. The film, written and directed by French filmmaker Julia Ducournau, follows a veterinary student (Garance Marillier) who begins developing a taste for flesh after she’s forced to break her vegetarianism and eat a raw liver during a hazing ritual.
“Fresh from the international festival circuit, Raw is unsettling and repulsive and, believe it or not, occasionally funny,” Nashawaty notes. “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.”
Raw, which also stars Ella Rumpf and Rabah Nait Oufella, is entering its limited release on Friday with a glowing 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite some flaws, critics overwhelming praise Ducournau’s skills behind the camera for her unique perspective that breaks the horror genre mold.
RELATED VIDEO: Feast your eyes on a NSFW clip from Raw
Read more reviews below.
Jordan Mintzer (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Picture Cannibal Holocaust as an emotionally driven coming-of-age movie set within a Gallic veterinarian college, and you’ll get an idea of what Ducournau (who also wrote the script) has come up with here. But while such concepts are often easier to imagine than to make, the assured storytelling and direction, including some of the goriest makeup effects this side of Rob Zombie, turn Raw into the kind of crossover film that takes the horror genre into another domain.”
Catherine Bray (Variety)
“The film’s most exciting element remains its writer-director. It’s not that Ducournau’s first feature is totally without flaws — any road bumps are mainly narrative and structural in nature — but that the authorial voice that emerges is so instantly complete and confident. She has original ideas to spare and the capacity to judiciously magpie from existing work, without tipping over into slavish homage.”
Jordan Hoffman (Vanity Fair)
“Ducournau has tremendous filmmaking chops, most evident in party scenes (there are three) that are rich in fervency but not reliant on woozy camera tricks. These sequences are shot in a naturalist style, and they let the chaos of the situation emerge from the performances and outward into the blocking—not by drowning everyone in outrageous lighting effects, as is so often the case. When the violence comes, it’s all the more shocking for how tactile it is. This is a movie that digs in its nails.”
Jeannette Catsoulis (The New York Times)
“Raw, Julia Ducournau’s jangly opera of sexual and dietary awakening, is an exceptionally classy-looking movie about deeply horrifying behavior. Infusing each scene with a cold, unwelcoming beauty, the Belgian cinematographer Ruben Impens makes his camera complicit in the trashy goings-on. Sneaking beneath bedsheets and sliding over young flesh, his lens takes us places we may not want to go.”
Emily Yoshida (Vulture)
“Raw’s exploration of the onscreen potential of cannibalism feels fresh. It’s not a brutal practice here so much as a pathetic and sad one, something that inspires as much loathing in the devourer as the devoured. Justine doesn’t have the privilege of being undead when she sinks her teeth into another human; she’s watching her own descent into animalism just as helplessly as we are.”
Katie Rife (The A.V. Club)
“Although the content of the film is undoubtedly horrific, Ducournau eschews jump scares and instead focuses on tone, never allowing the audience to fully relax by peppering even what appear to be quotidian transition scenes with little reminders of the macabre. No bus ride comes without a bloody car crash by the side of the road, no plate of mashed potatoes without an errant, forbidden meatball to ruin dinner. She doesn’t reject genre convention entirely, however: The film’s vividly saturated palette is drenched in bold accent colors in a way that recalls the Italian horror masters of the 1970s, as does the organ music that blares over the end credits. And it’s hard to see the image of teenagers drenched in buckets of blood without recalling another tale about a cursed young woman, Carrie.”
Christy Lemire (RogerEbert.com)
Ducournau’s lurid, vivid film is visually striking, full of images that will shock you while others will lull you with a hypnotic beauty. And though it has glimmers of style that are reminiscent of thriller masters — the body horror of David Cronenberg, the gaudy surrealism of David Lynch — Raw is very much its own artful entity with its own singular voice.”
Justin Chang (Los Angeles Times)
“Ducournau is hardly the first filmmaker to mine the body-horror lexicon for ripe pubescent metaphors, but hers may be the most audacious and controlled spin on this particular tale to emerge in some time. It’s no coincidence that Justine begins craving human flesh around the same time she develops an infatuation with her studly roommate, Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella). Adrien happens to be gay, but he’s also game, in more than one sense; the fluidity and unpredictability of the human appetite is one of the movie’s most playful and persistent themes.”