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Weekend Watch: ‘Raw’ Is the Coming of Age Cannibal Thriller You’ve Been Waiting For

Where to Stream

Raw

Weekend Watch is here for you. Every Friday we’re going to recommend the best of what’s new to rent on VOD or stream for free. It’s your weekend; allow us to make it better. 

What to Stream This Weekend

Movie: Raw
Director: Julia Ducournau
Available on: Amazon Video and iTunes

One of the best things about the horror genre is how adaptable is is to metaphor. Horror movies are about death and mayhem and blood and terror are all well and good, but any horror movie that’s truly worth your time is going to be about something. Or else it’s just a snuff film. Night of the Living Dead was about racism, Dawn of the Dead was about capitalism, teen slasher movies are almost always about sexual repression, The Babadook — while not actually being about queer liberation — is about maternal anxiety.

Julia Ducournau’s film Raw draws its power not only from the fact that it is a harrowing and inventive story about a young girl’s descent into cannibalism but that it does so in the midst of a smart and sharply-drawn story about coming of age in an unfamiliar setting. Justine (Garance Marillier) is a freshman at a school for veterinary medicine in Belgium. It’s a competitive and cloistered environment with its own culture and social hierarchy, and Justine is a quiet girl from a seemingly reserved family. Her family is also strictly vegetarian, which becomes an issue when Justine goes through the first of what appear to be many hazing rituals at the school, as she’s told to eat a rabbit kidney. It’s here where we find out that Justine’s sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who’s an upperclassman and seemingly well adjusted within the school. Rather than bail her sister out, Alexia encourages and ultimately forces Justine to eat the kidney.

As you might expect in a movie of this sort, one taste of the flesh touches off something in Justine, and Ducournau’s film does a masterful job of blending medicine and metaphor, as Justine’s body is besieged by rashes and sickness but her mind and her appetite turn to meat, the more raw the better. Justine doesn’t just become a monster, though, which only makes the film more harrowing. She’s deals with a lot of the usual college struggles; she befriends her gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella) and then develops possessive feelings for him, as straight girls in college often do. Her relationship with her sister is a fascinating and relatable push-pull of admiration and friction. But let’s be honest, it’s the cannibalism you came for, and Ducournau delivers at least two of the most memorable sequences on that subject that you’re ever going to see.

At times, Raw feels less like a cannibal movie with a brain than a coming-of-age movie with an unusual meal plan. The environment of the vet school is drawn so strongly, a concrete, chilly campus where every room seems to house some animal surgery or another. The carnal bloodiness of the subject matter at hand is contrasted with this institutional rigidity in a way that reflects just how harrowing this new environment is for Justine. Raw resists becoming a monster movie — one in which Justine must be vanquished — and is instead all the more horrifying for the fact that we are never allowed to write Justine off as anything less than human and relatable. And as a result, the final moments are able to deliver a gut punch that can only be described as the most awkward freshman-year holiday break imaginable.

Raw is pretty much destined to be a cult classic, one you’ll want to recommend to friends, especially those who pride themselves on their outrageous tastes. Much like that little rabbit kidney, you’ll develop a taste for this.

Where to stream Raw

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