It’s been a while since I last saw some good, old fashioned body horror, and although it’s understated compared to the works of Cronenberg or Lynch (less “pulsating tumors oozing out of every orifice” and more “You really shouldn’t poke that wound, oh God why are you still poking it?”), Raw had me squirming in my seat from start to finish (particularly during the hair vomiting scene).
Thankfully, like all great body horror, Raw’s nausea-inducing imagery doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of disgusting the viewer; rather, it represents the physical manifestation of the protagonist’s disturbed psyche. As the story unfolds, our heroine, an introverted vegetarian named Justine, struggles to adjust to life at veterinary school. Far from her parents—a domineering mother and a doormat of a father—and desperate to fit in, the star pupil begins the difficult process of self-discovery. Once she’s had her first taste of meat, however, long-repressed urges, bestial and primal in nature, emerge from the darkest recesses of her subconscious—and they absolutely terrify her.
Watching a shy bookworm grapple with her gnawing hunger for human flesh (in more ways than one) makes for a pretty twisted coming of age narrative, but beneath its hyperbole and shock value, Raw is a surprisingly compelling allegory about navigating the treacherous waters of newfound independence. Shortly before she undergoes her metamorphosis into a cannibalistic party girl, Justine develops a nasty rash, thin strips of her inflamed skin peeling away like a snake’s. I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate (or icky) visual metaphor.
[Originally written March 12, 2017.]