As sure as liver goes down smoothly with fava beans and a nice chianti, every few years a film is released with a warning that it might make you chunder into your popcorn. Be it the sickening chain of The Human Centipede or the bawdy body horror of Jackass, the potential for a movie to induce vomit is a badge of honour, liquid gold marketing and, most importantly, a challenge to hardened audience members.

French cannibal film Raw is the latest to send snowflake film festival folk retching in the aisles, with reports from both Toronto and Cannes that attendees have passed out, vomited and even been hospitalised after witnessing some of the more grisly scenes in the coming-of-age flesh fest.

After eating a giant plate of nachos and heading to a screening with a plastic bag in hand, I can vouch that you will probably be fine, if not a touch nauseated.

This is the first feature film written and directed by Julia Ducournau and I'd even go as far as saying that even the weak of stomach should actually try to brave the brutal brilliance of Raw.


Far from schock for shock's sake, Raw simply follows one young woman's journey to find herself in adulthood - by way of eating human flesh. Make no mistake: this isn't the gross-out torture porn of Hostel or the Saw franchise, tearing bodies apart for the sake of a cheap gasp. Raw is a singular experience that is entirely different.

Justine (Garance Marillier) is a wide-eyed, first-year veterinary student who, during her university indoctrination, is forced to break a lifetime of vegetarianism when confronted with a delicious mandatory meal of raw rabbit livers.

From that moment on, under pulsing laser lights, bottomless cups of vodka and other symbols of college detritus, Justine develops an insatiable appetite for raw meat. Who knew vet students were such savages? Trying to keep her newfound taste under wraps with help from her older sister Alexia, Justine goes to more and more extreme lengths to satisfy her hunger while maintaining experimentation with makeup, boys and alcohol. You know, just girly things.

The dreadful atmosphere created in Raw is one that threatens to swallow you whole, capturing the isolating university experience from the clinical corridor lighting to the claustrophobic parties. Against this cool-toned backdrop, Justine unleashes a distinctly un-chill narrative, drenching herself in blood and sex and guts. Much like Carrie going to prom, blood plays a huge part in the aesthetic.

Also comparable to Sissy Spacek's iconic role, Marillier too plays the perfect deer in the headlights, a gentle waif who slowly gives her body over to every one of her base desires. I was constantly reminded in Raw of the great philosopher Dizzee Rascal, who once famously said, "All I care about is sex and violence."

Don't be put off by the wimps: Raw is as interested in cannibalism as The Shining was with hotel management. This is grisly rumination on growing up, like if Perks of Being a Wallflower was made by David Cronenberg - but even better than that because it's made by a woman with a surgically precise vision.

On the surface it's about a lust for flesh, but Raw also perfectly captures the growling hunger for a sense of place, person and purpose in early adulthood. The pace can wane at times and spike in others which may be tedious to breakneck-speed horror fans, but perfectly mirrors the mundanity and mania of campus life. Raw is fiercely feminist, gloriously gory and pulls no punches.

You might not lose your lunch, but you'll probably find something to chew over.


Showing now, Rated R18, Stars: 4/5