Tag Archives: Julia Ducournau

The Worst and, more importantly, THE BEST of 2017, so far

So, as I am the grand arbiter of all things film, I’m officially calling the summer movie season at its close. Alas Logan Lucky, The Glass Castle, or Annabelle: Creation, you’re all part of the fall movie season. However will you survive?

And at the close of summer movie season, we’re essentially halfway through the movie year. I know we’re more than halfway through the calendar year, but trust me, that back half is always as packed as it gets. There’ll end up being things that are Oscar nominees that aren’t even on our radar right now. The worst movie of the year is likely still yet to come (though it’s hard to imagine right now).

But since I’m a fiend for lists, let’s make one, shall we? Let’s give a few check-ins and see where we are, starting with the worst (because it gets the attention) before taking a full celebration of the best.

Bottom 5 Films of 2017 So Far

5) The Dark Tower

Idris Elba

Ahh, The Dark Tower. The best franchise that will never quite be. Based on Stephen King’s series of epic fantasy western Lovecraftian meta-novels, some much smarter studio could have had a new Game of Thrones on its hands. Alas, it was in the hands of Sony and they instead produced a fall flat on its face. A mess of bad studio production, The Dark Tower wastes its actors, murders its pacing, and takes all the material and tosses it out the window for a mid-90s adaptation premise. Any film that features Matthew McConaughey saying “I see you’re still impervious to my magicks” with a straight face has an uphill battle. The Dark Tower doesn’t win it.

4) The Circle


A bland mess of technophobia, I really just feel bad for the people involved here. The Circle is Black Mirror without the brains or heart, an aesthetic rip-off by a huge number of people who should be able to make some better stamp. Staring a pitch-perfect satire of late capitalism in the face, The Circle is content to shake its fist at social media and ultimately end up going nowhere.

3) Transformers: The Last Knight


Look, who the living fuck expects anything out of this franchise at this point? The best Transformers has ever been able to aspire to is Bay’s weird hypercompetencies managing to shine through the material. But when they don’t, it’s the same thing that happens every goddamned time: A mess of story with awful design with a runtime that lasts for aeons.

2) Ghost in the Shell


A pile-up of decisions so bad that you’re more baffled that it ever happened than mad that someone chose to do it. That all said, this is a film that was never going to be great and still manages to enrage far above its station. A messy script, terrible direction, and boring setpieces would sink any movie, but a movie that white-washes like this one does deserves all the ire that can be thrown. When your material is so fertile with intellect, you can’t be this fucking stupid in putting it together.

1) The Book of Henry


Colin Trevorrow is a rare sort of filmmaker, one who in a past era would have perhaps been run out of town after town after the people found out his snake oil elixirs just weren’t working. The Book of Henry is his raw nerve put on screen. Excessively manipulative, baffling in every plot point put on screen, and a masterpiece of inhuman behavior, seemingly put together by a man who’s never met a human but is fairly certain he knows how they work. Fuck this movie.


In Raw, appetite and youth rule your life

The first year of college is the most exciting and terrifying time of your life, one that not everyone can handle. Some take the freedom as liberating, others take it as a new form of constraint, a slave to the newfound appetites and allowances.

Raw perhaps takes the new appetites to their extreme. In Julia Ducournau’s debut feature, the liberation of college is turned to body horror as new Veterinary student Justine (Garance Marillier) begins her first year at the school where her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is an upperclassman. Justine’s family are vegetarians, which comes into conflict when the schoolwide hazing forces Justine to eat raw rabbit kidney. That first taste of meat begins to unlock some…darker impulses

For those of you who haven’t quite put it together, Raw is a film about cannibalism, as Justine’s desire for meat begins to unlock a desire for human flesh, sex, and all the impulses and appetites her demure demeanor appears to have previously shoved down.

“Sex is death, death is sex” is not a particularly new avenue for horror to go down, but through the eyes of Ducournau, this takes on a whole new significance and power. Undoubtedly, part of that is the particularly female perspective that Ducournau gives the story, an unlocking of feminine desire and the particular relationships between sisters.

It’s also how deeply rooted it roots its horror in the fears of the story, not necessarily through anything inherently visceral. It becomes visceral in the telling, not in jump scares or in gore for gore’s sake.

Side note, that’s not to say there’s no gore. On the contrary, this movie first became famous for inspiring barf-induced walkouts at the (apparently) weak-stomached Cannes audiences. While I can report that this movie does indeed have plenty of disgusting body horror (there’s a scene with a rash that I actually couldn’t look at head-on), it’s not overwhelming and everything is rooted in these specific fears, those specific freedoms and the fright of your appetites being unlocked and losing control of yourself. It becomes frightening because of what it represents.

But there’s also a strange beauty to the whole proceedings. Ducournau films the college as an isolated place, a dream world that isn’t auditoriums but raves and operating theaters. There’s dashes of Giallo, vibrant color accentuating the real world and nightmares that are bathed in red.

Ducournau has a steady confidence, holding every shot just long enough to wring the right reaction before snapping you to the next. This is a deliberately-paced film, letting the horror unfold just enough to wash over you, and going big in the moments that deserve it. A music sting during Justine’s first true act beyond the pale is brash in that Giallo way, yet never tips into camp. Ducournau swung big for her debut and it pays off in absolutely extraordinary ways.

Garance Marillier’s performance also does wonders here, a tightly controlled performance that manages to find shift entirely organically with the arc of the film. Her doe-eyed innocence becomes a predator’s gaze, her unsure walk becomes animalistic. There’s a scene where we see her lose her virginity (well after the first time she tastes human flesh) that’s absolutely stunning, indulging all her appetites in a way that’s savage and animalistic and completely and totally committed. Marillier is an exciting presence and I look forward to seeing what she does next.

At the core of Raw, it’s that this is a rare sort of film. A debut that doesn’t feel like a debut, a horror that seems to scare without even trying, a genre film that feels personal. Its fears and scares are specific, its gaze is decidedly female. It’s the sort of film you don’t see, and on that alone, it’s worth celebrating.

But it helps that it’s just so damned good. Ducournau has made a superbly confident piece of cinema, one stylish and tense and scary and darkly humorous. It’s relatable in ways that make you deeply uncomfortable, and that’s what horror can be at its best. Raw is simply exciting, a work that grips you to its end and leaves you hungry for more.

Grade: A