Already preceded in legend by rumors that people fled the theater at its earliest screenings, Raw has a lot to live up to. And in a rare occurrence, lives up to that hype. It's terrifying and unsettling, but not always in the way you might think.
Garance Marillier plays Justine, a freshman at a prestigious French veterinary school that her parents attended and where her sister Alexis (Ella Rumpf) is an upperclassman. She's shy, a vegetarian and a virgin, none of which gels with her rowdy classmates. After a sadistic hazing ritual, in which the whole rookie class is doused in animal blood and forced to eat raw meat, Justine gets increasingly sick. The school nurse tells her it's just food poisoning, but her stomach pain and rashes only get worse. She begins to crave animal meat, and then human flesh.
To be fair: Raw is pretty damn gross. There will be more than one scene where you'll want to look away. But what keeps it so watchable – aside from Marillier's fearless performance – is its brutal subtext. It's a pretty scathing indictment of peer pressure, especially on young women. And not just in forcing a committed vegetarian to eat meat, but in an uncomfortable push for her to become more sexual. It's no surprise a pushy guy gets his lip bitten off for trying to go too far during a paint-covered 7 Minutes in Heaven session.
Raw has a lot more on its mind than just the shocking sight of a beautiful young woman chowing down on human body parts. Like the best horror movies, that social critique will make it last a lot longer than the cheap scares that you can find every other week. This is another bold horror movie that deserves to find a wider audience. I can only imagine how it will play in a theater full of people.