Slathered in queasy, confrontational imagery and coal-black humour, Julia Ducournau's accomplished debut feature Raw would make a thematically snug trilogy of sorts with Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day and Marina de Van's In My Skin, both elegant, taboo-obliterating studies of feminine bestial urges that society at large would preferably not acknowledge, let alone explore in such horrific detail.
It's viscous and vicious, a twisted, oddly poignant collision of midnight-movie yucks and coming-of-age turmoil. Just as the lycanthropy of Ginger Snaps served as a metaphor for menstruation, it uses cannibalism to trigger the evolution of its protagonist Justine (Garance Marillier), a mousey first-year student at a veterinary college where savage hazing rituals are allowed to run rampant without any apparent repercussion.
Strictly not for the faint of heart, this sharply photographed art-horror genuinely delivers on the barf-making front.
Whether it's the uncomfortably relatable sight of Justine vigorously scratching an allergic rash, the graphic glimpses into veterinary procedures, or the now-notorious, brilliantly sick bikini-wax-gone-awry centrepiece, there's enough here to nauseate stomachs of all temperaments.
But Ducournau resists turning Raw into a senseless gore-fest, consciously portraying Justine's primal transgressions as by-products of social and environmental pressures, including her own sexual awakening and a deeply turbulent sisterhood.
Marillier is fearless in the lead, committed to every liberating, terrifying, carnal moment of Justine's new-found appetite while locating an affecting bond, however frayed and bonkers things get, with her on-screen sibling Alexia (Ella Rumpf).
More than living up to its title, Raw pulses with a feverish, untamed vitality that qualifies it a placement in the upper echelons of modern human-feasting cinema.
Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf
Director: Julia Ducournau
Running Time: 99mins
Rating: R18 (Violence, horror, sex scenes & content that may disturb) French with English subtitles
Verdict:If you can stomach it Raw delivers arty cannibalistic horror.
Aaron Yap is a writer at flicks.co.nz