Seinen Manga: Maturity in Japanese Manga
 

Seinen Manga: Maturity in Japanese Manga

Article

 
Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
 

Godsgrave

Review

 
Matthew De Abaitua Interview – The Red Men US Release
 

Matthew De Abaitua

Interview - The Red Men US Release

 

Raw (2017): Disturbingly Brilliant Body Horror

Here on Fantasy-Faction, we’re committed to bringing you (yes, you!) the best original content we possibly can. To accomplish this, we’ve recently recruited a range of insanely talented new contributors, whose interests and areas of expertise cover various aspects of the genre.

This means that while the usual brilliant fantasy reviews, interviews, cover reveals and articles will continue (yay!), in addition we’ll also be branching out into some slightly less mainstream areas of speculative fiction. Going forward, our delightful Factioners can expect to see more coverage of manga and anime, horror, films, science fiction, games, small presses, opinion pieces, and even beer.

On that note, please give a warm welcome to Jeremy Szal, who’s here today to talk about the brand-new horror movie Raw.

It’s often said that entering adult life is akin to entering another world. You shed your teenage skin and enter a stage where your brain, behaviour, and body have been guttered out and replaced with something alien and sinister. So, it would make sense for Raw, a coming-of-age horror film that utilizes, out of all things, cannibalism, as its story. Part body horror, part dark comedy, and part coming-of-age romp, Raw isn’t a film; it’s an experience.

RawThe directorial debut of Julia Ducournau, Raw is a Franco-Belgian film that shows us Justine, a vegetarian who is forced to undergo a trial when she arrives at her veterinary college. This trial consists of eating raw rabbit liver, which she eventually does. And that’s where it all hits the fan.

Our lifelong vegetarian has been harbouring an unknown desire for raw meat. Wherever it can be found. It starts slow with rashes and welts, but soon spirals into Justine raiding her roommate’s fridge for uncooked meat, and then, the flesh of living humans. You get three guesses to how well this goes down, and the first two don’t count.

Raw couldn’t take place anywhere other than a university, because it’s that space between the teenage and adult worlds where anything and everything is possible. We’ve all done or seen some crazy stuff on campus; so it makes sense that the university setting of Raw – where kidnapping, bizarre hazing rituals and students biting into each other’s flesh unfolds – is a phantasmagorical landscape, where the coming-of-age story is distorted in a blood-streaked funhouse mirror. And it does what all fantasies do best: mirror our own society.

Or perhaps I’m making this film sound too serious. It’s more akin to a wild rollercoaster than a faux-experimental think piece. There’s a point about one third of the way through where we’re treated to a close up of a Brazilian wax (read that again). When that goes wrong, the main character accidentally cuts her sister’s finger off with a pair of scissors, who then falls unconscious. There’s no ice or fridge to keep the finger cool. Justine stares at her sister’s severed finger longingly as blood drips from the stump. No, they’re not going to show that, I think. Cue the blast of intense music and she digs in with gusto, and continues to do so even when her sister wakes up. I’m grinning like a madman because the filmmakers went there, and they could only go further.

At that point a dozen people walked out of the screening.

It’s just as well they did, because the film doesn’t get any tamer. We’re treated to close-ups of heaving, bloodied bodies, characters ripping the flesh off car crash victims, a girl in the background licking a boy’s eyeball, and a very ominous scene in a morgue I cannot bring myself to spoil. It’s not hard to believe that audience members fainted and had to be hospitalized at the premier. I mentally said oh god yes, they actually showed that on screen at least five times. The gloves are off as a whirlwind of insanity descends. This is strictly a film for those with an iron stomach and a tolerance for some serious body horror.

What makes body horror so disturbingly brilliant is that there is no escape from its curse because it literally consumes its host. It’s why the xenomorph in Alien, the greyscale in A Song of Ice and Fire and the many, many terrors of David Cronenberg are nauseating on a gut-level, because you can’t escape from a nightmare that’s turning your body into a torture chamber. And as it chews through your organs and twists into your brain, you know there’s no unringing the bell.

And this affliction is used in a character arc to turn Justine into a monster with a level of brutality that feels justified by its narrative in a non-gratuitous way. Its one thing to push your characters through hell, and it’s another to make us care about their well-earned hardships. Nothing is held back from Justine’s transformation from a sweet, young girl to a flesh-eating monster. Under the blaze of party lights, drugs and beat of music, her tastes, sexuality, speech and even dress sense changes. This is as much about the exploration of the human body as it is about the host residing in it, and how the changing of flesh changes the individual. It never descends to levels of gross-out torture porn, but utilizes these moments of stomach-churning gore to highlight character arcs. And the bar keeps getting higher with every scene. Think the envelope can’t be pushed any further? Sit tight, because they do it tenfold, and it’s an absolute delight.

There’s a push back to these changes as Justine tries to fight the cannibalistic impulses. One scene has her writhing under the bed sheets while unseen figures hit her, and another has what’s the un-sexiest of sex scenes where Justine is literally pounding her partner like a slab of meat, biting into her own arm so she doesn’t rip a chunk of his neck out.

Did I mention that this is an intense film? It’s brilliant, primal scenes like these that define Raw. We’ve all been uneasy at the changes our bodies go through, and Ducournau is merciless at spotlighting this with surgical precision. Forget self-discovery, this is clawing through your blood and bone for answers.

It’s not all guts and glory, though. The film’s pacing issues and occasional disregard for logic and common sense (after seeing Justine chew a boy’s lip off, you’d think people would stop going near her, no?) deter it off the tracks on occasion, and the cultural barrier of this French-language film might have us Anglophones scratching our heads on occasion.

I left the screening of Raw with an iron heaviness in my gut, loving that this film exists, on a high I’d only experienced once before with Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s startlingly original and wildly confronting with a whole layer of subtext lying like blood vessels under the skin.

Is it for everyone? No. But if you’ve got the stomach for something a little meatier, you can’t miss this glorious, bloody cult classic in the making.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (5 votes cast)
Raw (2017): Disturbingly Brilliant Body Horror, 8.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
Share

Leave a Comment