The Rapidian

Taste of RAW: Panelists discuss indie horror film at UICA

UICA and Cinema Lab team up to have local panelists dissect the film in terms of horror and feminism.
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for more info on RAW at the UICA

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After watching the trailer for RAW, it is immediately apparent that this indie horror movie is not for those with a weak stomach. The 2016 French-Belgian film from director Julia Ducournau shows blood, lust, and violence on the surface, but something much more sinister (yet relatable) within.

The film follows sixteen-year-old Justine (played by Garance Marillier), a devote vegetarian, as she begins her studies at the veterinary school her parents had attended. After meeting up with her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), a current student at the college, she endures a series of sadistic and grotesque hazing rituals with her roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) and fellow classmates in their first week of studies, including having animal blood dumped on them from above. Following these incidents, Justine starts to develop an unusual, carnivorous fervor that she cannot seem to suppress… until she has her first taste of human flesh.

While RAW is clearly not for everyone - there were even reports of people fainting and paramedics being called during its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival last year according to The Hollywood Reporter - those who can make it through the disturbing and gore-filled scenes are in for an intense, artful and strikingly symbolic film.

This past Thursday, the UICA, working with the GRCMC’s Cinema Lab, hosted a panel discussion following its screening of RAW that included Dale Jackson and Danielle Grow of the Female Gaze Experimental Film Club at Grand Valley State University and Tony Griffin and Shirley Clemens Griffin of the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival. The panelists analyzed the film and picked it apart, sharing their favorite moments and identifying its key feminist and horror elements.

Though a “cannibalistic coming-of-age movie” may not sound appealing nor convincing, the panelists all agreed it has much more to offer. Ducournau uses powerful symbolism and equally terrifying imagery to examine the issues and incidents that many women experience in young adulthood, especially in a college environment. Furthermore, while women tend to be victimized and/or objects of sexual desire in traditional, or “Pre-Ridley,” horror movies, as Tony Griffin put it (referencing Sigourney Weaver’s assertive and heroic role in Ridley Scott’s Alien), RAW delivers a complex, vulnerable female protagonist whose desires are clearly visible and at times disturbing.

“It turns the male gaze on its head,” Jackson said.

Feeling trapped and confused by her surroundings and betrayed by her own body, Justine is consequently “real, relatable,” Grow said. ­Depicting Justine’s gruesome urges, lustful desires, and her struggle managing it all, Ducournau successfully creates not only a strong feminist film, but a horrifying cinematic experience, with the truly unnerving scenes showing humanity’s underlying and animalistic cravings.

RAW will be screened at the UICA until Thursday, June 8. For viewing times, ticket prices, and more information, visit

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