Saturday, June 17, 2017

Vamp or Not? Raw

Where do we divide the line between vampirism and cannibalism? Beyond the fact that cannibals tend to be alive and vampires are undead; we do, of course, have living vampire vehicles. Some claim that the difference is between the consumption of flesh and blood – but some vampire myths/stories include flesh eating. Indeed, as the definition of cannibalism extends to consuming part or all of another member of your species then blood drinking can only be seen as cannibalism.

To me it all depends on what is underlying the urge. If there is a compulsion to eat (especially a physical one) or a health/beauty dependency then I am more swayed to the crossover. When recognisable vampire tropes are included then I am even more convinced. Welcome to Raw.

Garance Marillier and Justine
A French language film directed by Julia Ducournau and released in 2016 the film begins with a road. There is a figure in the distance walking towards camera. We see a car travel the road, the figure has gone but suddenly darts from the verge, causing the car to swerve and hit a tree. The figure stands and walks towards the car… The film proper follows Justine (Garance Marillier) and she and her mother (Joana Preiss) and father (Laurent Lucas) have stopped for a bite to eat on a journey. Justine asks for mash potato only but when eating it realises there was a hidden meat ball, which she spits out. Her mother goes to complain about her vegetarian daughter being 'tricked' into nearly eating meat.

being hazed
They are taking Justine to the Saint-Exupéry Veterinary School, her mother and father went there and her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) has been there for a year. Alexia is meant to meet them but doesn’t. Justine finds her room and suddenly her privacy is invaded by Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) – announcing that he’s her roommate. Justine suggests that she asked for a female roommate and he retorts that she has been given “a fag”. Older students burst in, wreck the place, throw mattresses out of the window and march all the freshers out for hazing. The haze ends in a party and Justine finds Alexia drunk.

rash reaction
Alexia shows her photos of past classes, all doused in blood – including their parents'. Certain students have been 'decapitated' in the pictures – traitors Alexia says, who refused the initiation. That initiation certainly does happen the next day but then the students are expected to eat a raw piece of rabbit’s kidney. Justine is refusing, saying she (and Alexia) are vegetarian, but Alexia denies this and forces her sister to eat the offal. This leads to Justine getting a bad rash (food poisoning, suggests the nurse). However Justine finds a growing craving for meat.

a common trope
This starts with hamburger and cooked meats, moves to raw meat at the refrigerator and slowly becomes something more sinister. The film does two things; it follows Justine going through a sexual awakening (and falling for Adrien) and simultaneously follows her growing desire for meat. So we get familiar tropes such as the sitting before the fridge eating raw meat. This, of course, is a common image/trope during the turning process (either eating raw meat or drinking the myoglobin). It is interesting to note that she has physical symptoms – the rash and, later, nosebleeds.

finger food
Her movement from eating animal meat (cooked or raw) to human flesh occurs when her sister gives her a bikini wax. With the wax firmly not for pulling Alexia gets a pair of scissors, intending to cut it away. Justine kicks out and Alexia manages to cut her own finger off and passes out. Justine calls for an ambulance, tries to find ice for the severed digit but then starts nibbling on it and soon is eating the raw flesh from the bone. Alexia comes round long enough to see this.

sisterly activities
What is interesting is that they both blame the dog (who subsequently gets put down) and Alexia doesn’t seem that bothered. Rather she takes Justine out, does the car crash trick and then goes over to the bleeding passenger and starts to eat. The addiction to raw flesh is a family trait it would seem, with both sisters afflicted (up to that point it might have been a weird side effect of the raw rabbit liver, whereas that is a trigger moment). Alexia, however, is off the rails and Justine is following her down the rabbit hole (if you pardon the pun).

becoming a vamp
Her sexual awakening also contains a degree of her developing a seductive element to her persona, and she seduces her gay roommate. During their sex she has a desire to bite him but ends up biting herself. However the very fact that she can get the man she wants, when he clearly wouldn’t be interested in her, adds in an element of sexuality that seems preternatural. We see her, as the awakening occurs, become quite “vamp-ish” and we also see her, at one point, out of control (due to alcohol) and forced to act in an animalistic way, snapping at the dead flesh of a cadaver (the vet school is next to a med school/hospital).

All in all, we can see a lot of typically vampire tropes (eating raw meat from the fridge, a health benefit to the consumption – or, in this case, staving off ill health, a sexual awakening and a preternatural seductive side). The animalistic moment is perhaps less common and felt a little more like a zombie trope (or, the more zompirish vampire-apocalypse vehicles), but generally she is very intelligent and certainly sentient. Raw is quite strangely built, having a languid aspect to the plotting at times, but this fits the mood of the piece. However on a Vamp level I would say that this has definitely strayed into the vampire camp – albeit on a solid rather than liquid diet.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Kyle Van Helsing said...

She could be a Wendigo.