BySam Plank, writer at
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Sam Plank

What's a horror director to do when horror genre movie lovers everywhere grow desensitized to horror, violence, and every kind of gore thinkable? It's not just horror enthusiasts either, thanks to the evening news and the share button on Facebook, people are inadvertently exposed to graphic and scary imagery all the time. Despite the stacked odds, first-time director Julie Ducournau, and her film RAW, are here to remind us that there are, in fact, certain terrors not universally exploited and experienced yet.

If you remember how sick you may have felt when you first watched Saw, Hostel, or The Human Centipede, then you might be prepared for the horror that new cannibalistic horror film, RAW, will throw in your face. But, can you imagine feeling an expected deep disgust for the film's cannibal and yet, perhaps, sincere empathy for her?

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A History Of Vomit-Inducing Terror

...and a long line of bloody people
...and a long line of bloody people

Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in its Midnight Madness section, the film induced more than the usual screams. Viewers reported vomiting and passing out following scenes that depicted cannibalism a little too realistically.

The director has big shoes to fill when it comes to making a satisfying horror film, and with a 100% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, RAW has gotten off to a pretty good start.

This isn't the first time a movie has gotten this kind of reaction from its audience. When The Exorcist arrived, viewers vomited, fainted, and had to leave the theater before the film was even half done. There were reports of heart attacks and even a miscarriage. Audience reactions to horror films prove there is often plenty of jumping, screaming, and squirming, and The Blair Witch Project was among the first to literally make viewers seasick.

But as physically ill as you may have felt following these films, which of them left you feeling sorry for the villain? Ducournau may have stumbled onto a new subgenre of horror films. Movies like Carrie and Friday the 13th incite sympathy toward the one doing all the killing with some poignant backstory of bullying, but they are still straight up slasher films. RAW takes the cannibal horror genre and flips it like a manburger on a flaming grill.

What Makes 'Raw' Tasty

After last year's The Green Inferno, from Eli Roth, the world didn't know it needed a newer, fresher (no pun intended) cannibal film.

The movie tells the story of 16-year-old Justine, a vegetarian veterinarian-to-be who goes off to vet school. During a hazing (apparently vet school has those), Justine is forced to eat some raw rabbit liver, watch the scene below. Being a vegetarian all her life, what follows? Naturally, something is awakened inside her, something with an insane hunger for flesh. She loves the taste of it and she's driven to satisfy that hunger in shocking ways.

The cannibalism scenes were enough to sicken some of the audience at TIFF, which, of course, kind of pleased the director. In an interview with Indiewire Ducournau discussed the road leading to Cannes, where her movie debuted in May. She talked about how scared she was to show her film in Toronto, where many genre film buffs were waiting to possibly tear her apart.

"I want to hear this particular audience reacting. I want to see where they will be reacting. I am very curious. It’s like being judged by my peers, because myself, I am a huge genre and horror buff. The reaction at Cannes was very positive — surprisingly positive, I say. Like anyone, when it’s your first feature, it’s like, 'I’m going to be eaten by the wolves! Alive!' It was very, very responsive in the audience. Laughter, feelings of uneasiness, scared, crying, some people leaving the room, of course. It was very responsive. I am very happy about that.

Obviously, neither she nor her film was torn apart at all. Through the hazing, the forced consumption of meat (raw, at that), and the subsequent changes the main character goes through, the French filmmaker achieves the impossible and stirs empathy for a young woman eating other people. With the overwhelmingly positive response, we can only hope to see RAW soon. It is getting its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 25.

Do you think you're capable of feeling sorry for a woman driven by lust for flesh pushed on her by others? Are you excited to see the film? Share in the comments.