And we’re back. Apologies for the delay in getting this introduction up on the blog but here’s Darrell Buxton’s intro read in tooth and claw.
Hello and welcome to Fright Club for tonight’s screening of the controversial new French shocker, RAW.
My name’s Darrell Buxton, I’m QUAD’s regular horror host and have been a lifelong horror movie fan. I’ve also been a vegetarian for the past eleven years, and one thing I’ve noticed is that you don’t get too many vegetarian horror films. Perhaps you could say that THE WICKER MAN was all about apples; ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES and its sequels saw the fruit and veg mounting a fightback; you might wish to include the Aardman classic WALLACE & GROMIT: CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, which Nick Park did indeed describe as “the first vegetarian horror film” during his publicity interviews; and, perhaps inevitably, 2010 brought us the ultra low budget American DV production ATTACK OF THE VEGAN ZOMBIES.
RAW focuses upon a central veggie character, Justine, played by Garance Marillier. Justine is not only a vegetarian, she’s also a veterinarian – or at least is planning to be, as she embarks on classes to learn the skills necessary to tend and care for infirm animals. The sick puppies we soon encounter are of the human variety, however, since in a throwback to the golden days of the American slasher movie, Justine is forced to undergo a ‘hazing’ initiation ritual by her classmates – involving consumption of hitherto forbidden meat, in the form of uncooked liver. The effect this has on the young student is startling, and the events of the remainder of the film have reportedly caused audiences to feel decidedly queasy – the word from a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival claimed that several viewers fainted and that an ambulance had to be called, with the realism of the special make-up bite marks and so on being the supposed cause. We’re ready for anything this evening and have a hotline to the Royal Derby Hospital, just in case.
RAW is far from being the first French fright flick to delve into such gruesome territory. Claire Denis directed TROUBLE EVERY DAY in 2001, starring Vincent Gallo and featuring loopy Beatrice Dalle of BETTY BLUE fame as a cannibalistic killer Coré Semeneau, kept locked away by her neurosurgeon husband but breaking loose to frenziedly kill male victims in an orgy of biting and tongue-ripping. And the late great director Jean Rollin, one of our major favourites here at Fright Club, offered a cult of cultured, well-dressed, high society female blood drinkers in his brilliant 1979 movie FASCINATION.
So RAW’s director, 34 year old Julia Ducournau, is following in something of a home tradition. The movie also echoes recent cannibalistic hits from other corners of the world, notably the Mexican WE ARE WHAT WE ARE and its even better American remake. The classic ‘mondo’ style of exploitative jungle native cannibal gut-munching as seen in notorious 1980s Italian favourites like CANNIBAL FEROX, EATEN ALIVE and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was revived by Eli Roth’s faithful homage GREEN INFERNO a couple of years back, but the spectre of Hannibal Lecter has loomed large over horror since the early 90s, adding sophistication and class to the act of devouring one’s fellow man, bringing the feast indoors and adding china plates, cutlery and Chianti to the ritual. So overpowering has been SILENCE OF THE LAMBS in influencing subsequent horror cinema that it’s a surprise there haven’t been masses of masticating murderous gourmets following in Dr. Lecter’s wake on screen, but RAW at least sets its own chomping carnage in similar contemporary times and adds to the modern menu of mayhem.
Catherine Bray’s glowing review of RAW in ‘Variety’, after seeing the movie at Cannes, suggested that the festival jurors might have to “reach for the barf bag”. Bray loved the film, commenting on the effective performances of bewildered Marillier and the punky Ella Rumpf, playing the lead character’s older sister Alexia in what Variety’s critic cites as being a cross between Dalle’s Betty Blue and Fairuza Balk’s whirlwind witchy turn in THE CRAFT, itself screened by us here not too long ago. Mark Kermode gave RAW a 5-star rating in The Guardian last month, stating “what is very impressive about RAW is that absolutely everything in it is disquieting, not just the obvious moments of revulsion; there is no let-up in the ambient background buzz of fear”. He compares the film’s sisterly relationship to that of the Canadian werewolf film GINGER SNAPS, and says that the title RAW is “a pretty accurate description of how I was feeling by the end”.
Finally, a quick mention for the film’s soundtrack by English composer Jim Williams. Jim did the music for Ben Wheatley’s DOWN TERRACE, KILL LIST, SIGHTSEERS and A FIELD IN ENGLAND and is on fine form here, mixing acoustic piano and string tracks with intense choral and organ-driven pieces and the occasional ear-punishing item. There’s already a vinyl LP available via the excellent Death Waltz record label so if you like what you hear, add that to your shopping basket or at least to your Spotify playlist.
Enjoy the film, and if you should decide to stop off for a kebab on the way home, don’t say you haven’t been warned.