BySam Plank, writer at
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Sam Plank

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

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If you remember how sick you felt when you first watched Saw, Hostel or The Human Centipede, then you might be prepared for the revulsion that Ducournau's cannibalistic horror film Raw will throw in your face. But can you imagine feeling a deep disgust for the film's cannibal, and yet, perhaps, a certain empathy?

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A History Of Vomit-Inducing Terror

A long line of bloody people
A long line of bloody people

Screening at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) in its Midnight Madness section, the film induced more than the usual screams from the audience. Indeed, viewers reported vomiting and passing out during scenes that depicted cannibalism a little too realistically.

The director has big shoes to fill when it came to making a satisfying horror film, and with an 89 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Raw has gotten off to a pretty good start.

This isn't the first time a movie has received this kind of reaction from its audience. When The Exorcist arrived in the '70s, viewers vomited, fainted, and had to leave the theater before the film was even halfway through. 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 feel motion sick.

But as physically ill as viewers may have felt while watching these films, did any of them leave 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 for the one doing all the killing, with some poignant backstory of bullying, but they are still straight-up slasher films. takes the cannibal horror genre and flips it like a manburger on a flaming grill.

What Makes Raw So Tasty

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

Raw tells the story of college student Justine, a vegetarian veterinarian-to-be. During a hazing on campus (apparently vet school has those), Justine is forced to eat raw rabbit liver. Watch the scene below. A lifelong vegetarian, 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 scenes of 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 Ducournau nor her film was torn apart at all. Through the character's hazing, the forced consumption of meat (raw, at that), and the subsequent changes she goes through, the French filmmaker achieves the impossible and stirs empathy for a young woman who eats people. With the overwhelmingly positive response, we're now champing at the bit to see Raw, which is set for US cinematic release on March 10.

Update: Raw Red Band Trailer Released!

With its impending official theatrical release, Raw has gifted the -loving world with its trailer. If you love gore and you've been on the fence about the movie, prepare to be won over.

This looks sick — and that'd be the good sick, not the "just ate meat for the first time and puked" sick.

Do you think you're capable of feeling sorry for a woman driven by hunger for human flesh? Are you excited to see the film? Share in the comments.


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