Horror has seen s huge resurgence in recent years, especially when it comes to original ideas. Directors such as Ari Aster and Robert Eggers have helped propel horror into a new era. However, oftentimes, the female perspective is forgotten and just as there are many male horror directors, a number of women have come forward to craft their own visions such as Jennifer Kent’s debut The Babadook and Rose Glass’ debut Saint Maud. Another director who has made waves is French director Julia Ducournau who made her feature debut in 2016 with her coming-of-age horror, Raw, while her followup, Titane is even more brutal and explicit in its gore and walked away with the top prize, the Palme D’Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
The first thing you may hear when coming about Ducournau’s films for the first time is the controversy that surrounds them. Her films are not for the faint of heart and even hard-core horror fans have been known to flinch once or twice at some of the scenes. However, her approach to “body horror” is not gratuitous in the way that many male directors have done in years past as Ducournau gives power to her female protagonist rather than writing female characters that have been created to be tortured.
Ducournau’s feature debut, Raw, could initially be mistaken as a regular coming-of-age story as Justine (Garance Marillier) is about to start veterinary school. However, things take a deep dive into horror territory as lifelong vegetarian Justine discovers that she has a hunger for raw meat, especially human meat. Raw was met with much controversy on release as word spread that people fainted during the screening due to the explicit gore. It is a shocking film to watch and one that can cause upset due to the content, but Raw is an intricate commentary on the female experience and the pressures and expectations that society places on women.
Her second film, Titane, also made waves on release and follows serial killer, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who is impregnated by a car and subsequently begins to experience horrific bodily changes. When Alexia goes on a murderous rampage, she disguises herself as a missing boy and finds herself living eith the boy’s father, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), who also has his own fair share of bodily issues. Titane is unflinching and unapologetic in its approach to discussing gender and subverting traditional and stereotyped gender roles. You can read my full review for Titane here, but needless to say, it is a wild ride from start to finish.
What makes Ducournau such an exciting filmmaker is her fearless approach to filmmaking. Not only does this fearlessness relate to the subject matter or the scope of horror involved, but the way that she directs is truly innovative and unique. Ducournau’s ability to capture the essence of femininity and the horrors within are second to none and this makes her a force to be reckoned with. Since making her brutal debut with Raw, Ducournau has garnered a reputation for her unflinching perspective on the female gaze and gender, taking her place among the best horror directors while doing so.
Which Julia Ducournau film is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!