RAW (Grave)


The thing to remember about Julia Ducournau first feature length film originally titled "Grave", is that beyond all the unsettling scenes of bloodletting and cannibalism is an interesting coming-of-age film.


Fans of Tomas Alfredson's "Lat den ratte komma in" ("Let the Right One In") will probably get a big kick out of this gory French tale of the escapades in a veterinarian school where two sisters are attending. Justin (Garance Marillier) is joining her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) and will staying in the same dormitory - but not the same room. She arrives just in time for freshman hazing which is a week of sleep deprivation activities.


Although she request a female roomate, Justine is assigned a male roomie Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) who is also gay; so things should be okay. But during the hazing, Justine is forced to eat some rabbit kidneys though she is a vegetarian. The oddest this is that it is Alexia who forces her to eat it.

Everyone knows that once a vegetarian eats meat, there is usually a negative reaction as their bodies are accustomed to digesting the meat. Justine's reaction is immediately disguised as a very bad rash which quickly subsides.


But as time quickly passes, she develops a craving for meat - the rawer and bloodier the better. Her cravings seem to peak when she accidentally cuts off her sister's finger and....


But oddly enough, her sister is okay with it as are her parents who are the primary vegetarians. What gives? Things progress when Justine is kissed by a boy and, well, I'm sure Mike Tyson can relate to a little nip here and there. But Adrien seems to be on safe territory when it turns out he can appreciate Justine's sadomasochism ways.


Tension builds as the relationship between Justine and Adrien gets comfortable while the relationship between the two sisters gets even gorier and bloodier. How far will Justine and Alexia go and more importantly, how long will the school turn a blind eye to the bloodfest that they are writing off as part of the hazing.


There are wonderful moments that seem lifted right from a Coen brothers early work like "Barton Fink" and "Blood Simple" But the style and starkness is reminiscent of "Let the Right One In". There is a kind of eroticism in all the bloodletting and cannibalism.


"Raw" ("Grave") is not an easy film to watch as it crosses boundaries most horror films dare not approach. But if you can sit through it, you will creepily enjoy the gory story.   -- GEOFF BURTON