Captain John Boyd receives a promotion after defeating the enemy command in a battle of the Mexican-American War, but because the general realizes it was an act of cowardice that got him there, he is given a backhanded promotion to Fort Spencer, where he is third in command. The others at the fort are two Indians, George and his sister, Martha, who came with the place, Chaplain Toffler, Reich, the soldier; Cleaves, a drugged-up cook; and Knox, who is frequently drunk. When a Scottish stranger named Colquhoun appears and recovers from frostbite almost instantly after being bathed, he tells a story about his party leader, Ives, eating members of the party to survive. As part of their duty, they must go up to the cave where this occurred to see if any have survived. Only Martha, Knox, and Cleaves stay behind. George warns that since Colquhoun admits to eating human flesh, he must be a Windigo, a ravenous cannibalistic creature. Written by
Scott Hutchins <email@example.com>
Oh man, where do I begin with my inexplicable obsession with this movie? I think part of the reason I love `Ravenous' so much is that it often seems that no one else does; either due to not having seen it, or just not appreciating it. I admit, it's the kind of movie you're going to love or hate, either you get it or you don't. But I can remember seeing it in the theater the first time, and just not being able to believe that I was laughing at what I was laughing at. That's really the best way I can sum up my reaction to this film; there's a certain absurdity underlying all of its themes. It seems like the biggest confusion with people/critics and `Ravenous' is over whether or not it's intent is to be comic. Indeed the comic tone is established from the very beginning, from the opening quotes and first scene. To be sure, it is certainly dark, very very dark comedy, with an interesting mix of `cannibal/vampirism' (see Roger Ebert's review, the only one I've read that does Ravenous justice). However, director Antonia Bird does carry some more serious themes throughout Ravenous, but with a biting satirical edge-- she particularly seems to be commenting on American excessive consumption of all kinds, from meat-eating (and human-flesh eating in this case), to manifest destiny. Most powerful is the truthful notion that we all must "kill to live" in some way or another, and in our willingness or unwillingness to do so, we must differentiate between cowardice and morality. I'm just pounding the dark comedy thing into the ground though because I think that watching Ravenous, it is very important to keep in mind that principally it is supposed to be humorous, and yes, you are supposed to laugh at cannibalism believe it or not, because if you don't, you'll probably just find the film gory and disgusting.
Ravenous is carried by its bold, wacky, charismatic characters. Well, okay, the one exception here is Guy Pearce as central character Captain John Boyd, who is rather subdued in contrast to everyone else, quite intentionally so. Pearce does a very fine job making Boyd very quiet, introspective, and uncomfortable as he is sent to the wonderfully creepy and dysfunctional Fort Spencer, due to his discovered "cowardice" in war. Robert Carlysle is also excellent as the crazy Colqhoun/Ives. I liked the rest of the people at Fort Spencer, all eccentric in their own ways, although all may not last too long. It's nice to see Jeremy Davies as the adorable, religious Toffler, but Neal McDonough is the real stand out as the tough, super-hero like character of Reicht, `the soldier'; with his icy blue eyes and shocking white-blond hair he is the epitome of bravery and masculinity, and certainly forms a direct contrast to the sensitive, cautious, and all-too-human Boyd. Basically, the plot comes to revolve around an old Native American legend--the Wendigo myth-which states when a man eats another man he takes on his strength and spirit. There are quite a few twists and turns and surprises in Ravenous that should be enough to hold any viewer's attention.
The soundtrack to this film is also quite striking and omnipresent; with original eerily beautiful orchestral tracks that add much of the atmosphere in every situation. Particularly beautiful is the simple, little Boyd's theme', which is used throughout the film as Boyd journeys. The music adds not only to the eerieness of the film, but yes, even the humor. If there is any point at which I still had any kind of doubt about Ravenous being comical it was shattered in a scene where Boyd and Reicht go after the evil Ives, and I hear classic banjo `chase music' complete with yodelling; you just can't help but laugh and shake your head. And even though everyone else already has, I'll give another nod to the cinematography of the gorgeous yet bleak and dangerous icy mountain range.
Ravenous is classic for scenes of such absurd, dark humor in any situation, as when (in the same chase scene) Boyd leaps off a cliff to go tumbling down a hill and crashes into Reicht. Just when a moment is getting serious, it boldly will hit you with such a cartoonish image. Like i said, either you'll love it, or you just won't. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Ravenous that grabs me so much, but it is just a combination of everything. It's like no movie I've ever seen. It's smart, satirical, observant and insightful (watch for a nice use of Ben Franklin quotes), and yes, funny. While not for everyone, it surely has cult film potential written all over it.
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