RawRaw (aka Grave) represents the best elements of the London Film Festival. Not only did this neat, original, out-of-nowhere film about living zombies at a veterinary school play at the festival, it actually won the Sutherland Award, given to the first feature with “the most original and imaginative directorial debut.” Last year, the same award went to Robert Eggers for his outstanding maiden effort, The Witch. That’s two years in a row in which this prize has gone to horror films. London is at the forefront of the major festivals at showcasing and promoting excellence in genre films. It is part of what makes those 12 days in October in the UK capital so special for film fans.

Director/screenwriter Julia Ducournau deserves every accolade she garners for her first feature. Raw is an amazing accomplishment, a terrific horror flick that resonates as social commentary. Some will embrace it as a message of female empowerment; others may praise it for the strong anti-bullying sentiment it generates. Regardless, and first and foremost, Raw is a thrilling, twisted, gruesome exploitation flick that would be a welcome addition as the headliner at any drive-in theater. Ducournau does not shy away from any tough choices; she takes an uncompromising and hard look at cruelty in whatever form it comes in.

Justine (Garance Marillier) is the golden child in her nuclear family of four. The youngest and the brightest of the two sisters, she is joining her older sibling, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), at veterinary school, which seems appropriate given that the two, along with their parents, are vegetarians. But what if they stay away from meat for the same reason that alcoholics stay away from drink? One taste, and they just might lose their mind. Justine has a typical freshman year, experimenting with sex and cannibalism, while being hazed by the upperclassmen. Fortunately, she has her older sister on hand, who sailed the same voyage of self discovery a few years before and seems to have enjoyed the trip immensely.

Marillier is very good as the younger sister, Rumpf may be even better as the elder. The sibling dynamic is a big part of why this movie succeeds. Many say they would give a kidney to a brother or sister, but exactly how many body parts and which ones would we be willing to sacrifice? The humor in Raw is as black as Agent Cooper’s coffee on Twin Peaks (that’s “black as midnight on a moonless night”). The scares are twice as much fun.

Raw is a great example of how there is, literally and figuratively, a world of horror outside the U.S. It is not always easy to find films like Train to Busan, The Wailing, Scare Campaign, The Similars or The Untamed, but if you are not making the effort to see the great foreign horror films that are coming out every month, you are missing a treat and you are missing the opportunity to show the breadth of the potential market for such movies. Raw is scheduled for a March 2017 release in the U.S. Make a note on the calendar.

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