Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a sensationalist and sensational allegory for mankind and womankind’s tenuous relationship with their ever-present animalism.
It graphically (but not gratuitously) and hilariously (for the depraved) depicts the everyday, hierarchical power structures that normalize predatory, carnivorous, cannibalistic, and bestial behavior, all literally realized here. But no animals, including humans, adhere to the limits of norms, which makes such normalizations dangerously slippery (with blood) slopes. By invoking classic horror archetypes – vampires, zombies, witches, sirens, devils, seductresses, etc. – the allegory ultimately reveals that these ideas drive most monster stories, albeit more commonly from a male perspective.
Since women are almost always on the brunt end of those power structures, Ducournau allows her lead female characters to reverse that customary equation, unleashing onto the world the violence usually inflicted upon them. How many slasher flicks feature seemingly asexual madMEN brutalizing girls, often after the latter indulges in sex (a classic trope)? Yet when their roles are switched, bloodthirsty gals tend to come with a carnal component. On both sides of this misogynist coin, libidinous procreation that does not result in creation adopts a negative connotation, either leading to death for the innocent or explaining the evil of the guilty, a catch-22 polarity. When animals feel similarly trapped, they tend to eat their way out, in the same way as Docournau’s ladies.
Given the current global political climate, it’s fitting that 2017 has been particularly strong year for horror…movies, thanks to a long list of flicks that I’ll compile in a future post. But before I do, I just want to note that the next generation’s top cinematographers will probably come from the horror genre, which currently boasts the most promising up-and-comers, such as Raw’s Ruben Impens (who also shot the gorgeous Broken Circle Breakdown a few years back). Though one-take tracking shots with seemingly no cuts (they’re usually just masked by technical trickery) are becoming increasingly derivative and needlessly flashy, Impens’ one here is essential to pulling off the most convincing party/rave scene in recent memory.