When the genre eats itself – Ducournau’s RAW

Last week Universal released Julia Ducournau’s RAW for digital distribution. Be forewarned: it’s a French horror flick. VERY French, but not in the way you think.

More often than not when studios make a horror film all they’re worried about is the scares. How many jump-scares? How much gore? How scary can we make this thing? What’s great about the French is they’re so much more eccentric about this kind of stuff. They go the unconventional route of creating an intriguing story with interesting characters first and THEN letting the horror-aspects of the film enhance the story-telling.

Outlandish, to the say the least, especially in light of how most American horror films are made.

So here’s the synopsis: “Stringent vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) encounters a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world during her first week at veterinary school. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her principles and eats raw meat for the first time. The young woman soon experiences terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.”

Boom. So, yeah – you’ve already got so much more than “geez look how scary this is gonna be!” The director made a film that intended to be disturbing (instead of just “scary”) and by doing so she made something scarier than any movie trying to be scary ever could.

“Scary” is temporary. It’s hits and then it’s gone.

“Disturbing” creeps into your subconscious and waits there like a tick waiting to give you some kind of disease that will trick your brain into seeing all your loved ones as enemies trying to kill you. RAW knows this. RAW uses this to get at you.

There’s a lot more to RAW than just mind-fuckery. It is probably the only film that could accurately be billed as “a coming-of-age, teen romance, cannibal movie.”

In various interviews Ducournau has referenced the cinema of Korea in regards to their ability to defy/cross genres. Movies like THE HANDMAIDEN, SNOWPIERCER, and THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE WEIRD all find ways to rise above being boxed in to a particular genre. Her fascination with this idea is readily apparent in RAW which most definitely brings the kind of Lynchian body-horror we’ve all missed so much, but it’s got equal parts heart, humor and romance. That’s all set with the looming threat of a cannibalism hanging over-head, but that contrast makes the film stand out amongst the cut-and-paste movie-making we usually get from genre pieces.

RAW brings some humanity to the cannibalism sub-genre. It also makes you go all John Quninoes and ask “What Would You Do?” in the unlikely event you developed cannibalistic tendencies? Tweet to @Official_FAN and tell us where you’d get YOUR fresh, human meet if that happed!