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If someone were to ask what Ravenous is all about, the easiest thing to say
would be: `It's about cannibalism in a remote Army outpost in the 1800s.'
That's exactly right, and that's probably what kept audience members away
from Ravenous when it briefly ran in theaters back in 1999. Cannibalism?
Who needs to watch that? Indeed.
Yes, there is cannibalism in Ravenous. Quite a lot of it, in fact. The film is steeped in murder, the eating of human flesh, and is flavored with madness. At times the film can be downright difficult to watch, though the compelling nature of the narrative keeps the viewer's eyes locked on the screen for the full ninety-eight minutes.
Ravenous is so much more than a meditation on people eating other people, though it's obvious there was a great deal of confusion about how exactly to present this dish to the public. Its plot is fairly simple for the first half: Mexican War hero (and hidden coward) Lt. Boyd, played by LA Confidential's Guy Pearce, is assigned to an end-of-the-Earth fortress in the western Sierra Nevadas. This fort, populated over the winter by a tiny handful of misfit officers and enlisted men, receives a visitor in the person of a starving man with an awful story of a failed mountain crossing that eclipses the Donner Party's. What happens then is so twisted, but skillfully crafted, that it would be criminal to spoil what transpires.
But Ravenous is not just a horror story. What lies at its heart is an allegory about man's relationship to other men and how society structures itself around the powerful and the powerless. Issues such as the morality of Manifest Destiny and even the ethics of simple meat eating are touched upon. Guy Pearce gives an underplayed performance so low-key that he almost vanishes into the film stock, while co-star Robert Carlyle (most recently in The World is Not Enough) plays opposite him with delightful nuance. The material even brings deeply textured work out of Tim Burton stalwart Jeffrey Jones as the commander of the fort, and scattered around these three are solid supporting actors like Jeremy Davies, who's much better here than he was in Saving Private Ryan, and David Arquette.
If anything works against Ravenous at all, it's the curious inclusion of humor at the outset of the picture. Director Antonia Bird, who also made Priest and Safe, is not known for her lighter side, which makes the appearance of a goofy epigram at the very start of the picture, and the use of some bizarrely inappropriate music during a later sequence, seem more like some producer's half-hearted attempt to blunt the sharp edge of the film's commentary with silliness.
Luckily for the viewer and the film, however, Ravenous is far too powerful a motion picture to be undercut in this fashion. By the time the final reel has passed, any memory of earlier missteps is forgotten as the pace grows more deliberate and the action becomes bloodier and bloodier up until the final moments.
Unjustly neglected on the screen, Ravenous is a film with a great deal to say. It's only too bad that cannibalism was the best way to say it.
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
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,
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.
I don't know whether the previous comments on this film show how badly the film was marketed (I never saw any advertising for it) or whether they're a terrible condemnation of just how tunnel-visioned people can be. This is only a horror film in the sense that Macbeth is or The Godfather. It's about the horror of monstrosity, particularly the monstrosity inside ourselves. It's not about cannibalism, nor is it a black comedy. It has those things in it, but they are not it's raison d'etre. It's about the horror of war, conquest, taking things which don't belong to you with the sole justification that that's how you get ahead in life. You have what the other man has literally by consuming it. The hero of this film is branded a coward when really all he's done is preserved himself from the madness going on around him, a fight in which he has no part, just like this one. And yet, I see reviewers here referring to his 'cowardice' as a given. They haven't even got to first base about questioning whether he might not actually be a coward in the first place. It looks like everybody's checked their brains in at the door with this one. I'm glad I never directed this movie, it would be soul-destroying to be this misunderstood. It's a great movie. Savage, brutal,poetic. You watch the whole thing with your mouth hanging open in sheer disbelief. It's a feast for the eyes and ears and has one of the most fey, eerie qualities I've ever seen in a film. It's a masterpiece and I would urge anyone out there who can leave their preconceptions and genre expectations at home to see it. Give yourself a treat - be amazed.
Antonia Bird's "Ravenous" is one of the finest low-budget horror movies of recent years.It's a brilliant mix of cannibalism,gruesome gore,sly black humour and quasi-philosophy.The script by Ted Griffin is absolutely stupendous.It's an irresistible blend of Native American legend(you absorb the strength or spirit of who you eat),the Donner tragedy,and the story of Sawney Bean.Bean with his wife and his numerous offspring,dwelt in a cave in Galloway,Scotland,during the sixteenth century.The family cave was close to the sea and they lived by highway robbery:ambushing,killing and then eating passers-by.Any parts of the body which they were not able to eat once were pickled in brine or hung in their cave.Over a period of twenty-five years it was proved that Bean and his family were estimated to have killed and eaten more than a thousand people.The acting is wonderful-Guy Pearce shines in a difficult role as a Lieutant John Boyd."Ravenous" was shot in the Czech Republic and Slovakia,and the landscape and climate is put to fantastic use.The score by Damon Albarn(of British band Blur)and Michael Nyman is very spooky and atmospheric.The film is loaded with brutal violence and gore,so if you're squeamish give it a miss.However if you're a horror fan with a taste for something dark and sinister,then you're in for a rare treat.Highly recommended.
'Ravenous' is a highly entertaining and original blend of horror and black comedy. Apparently it had troubled beginnings with the original director being fired and Antonia Bird coming in as a last minute replacement at the behest of co-star Robert Carlyle ('Trainspotting') who had previously worked with her on 'Priest', a more different movie than this you couldn't imagine! Anyway, Bird triumphed and ended up with an excellent movie. David Arquette and Jeremy Davies are two actors I have little time for but they didn't have much on screen time and didn't detract from the great performances by Carlyle and 'Memento's Guy Pearce, who really sold the movie to me. I also really liked the role played by Tim Burton regular Jeffrey Jones. I enjoyed the work of all three actors, the unpredictable script, the inventive direction, and the unusual score by Peter Greenaway regular Michael Nyman and Blur's Damon Albarn, which reminded me at times of cult favourites Penguin Cafe Orchestra. 'Ravenous' isn't the greatest movie I've ever seen but I have enjoyed it all three times I've watched it and that's a lot more than I can say about most movies around these days. It's wicked fun with very clever touches of black comedy, and I highly recommend it.
Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) has just arrived at Fort Spencer, a
"reward" of sorts for his display of cowardice during the
Spanish-American war. The fort is manned by a drunk, a pothead, a
Native American woman and her brother, a goofy young chaplain, a
nonchalant Colonel and a half-crazed soldier named Reich. Shortly after
Boyd's arrival, a frostbitten man appears one night out of the
snowstorm and is taken in. After a quick and miraculous recovery, the
man, a Scotsman name of Colqhoun, tells a harrowing tale. He and a
party of five others had been stranded in a snow storm and took refuge
in a cave. When their food ran out, they turned to cannibalism.
Colquhoun claims to have escaped before he too could be eaten. The men
of Fort Spencer quickly mobilize and, guided by Colqhoun, they head off
to search for survivors. But, too late, they discover that there are no
survivors. Colqhoun is a ravenous cannibal, and may possibly be a
mythical beast called Wendigo. Only the cowardly Boyd survives the
bloody ambush...but will he conquer the cannibal, or join him?
This is a bitterly black comedy, a weird combination of the Donner Party tragedy, the legend of Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean and the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead with its comments on consumerism. This film did poorly at the box office due to bad advertising, which is a shame because it's a very well made, well acted and well scripted movie with a cleverly insane soundtrack to boot. Everyone delivers quirky, standout performances, especially Robert Carlyle as the cannibal, playing him as an unhinged Charles Manson type one moment and a cultured, elegant gentleman the next. His performance is totally riveting and shockingly funny at times. He's also incredibly good looking, which doesn't hurt either. Any movie that can fit in a shot of Carlyle's naked butt is a film worth watching.
The humor in this movie will not be to everyone's taste (no pun intended). It is still a movie about cannibalism and features some bloody, gross-out gore, so be warned. But, if you have a strong stomach and a sick sense of humor, you won't want to miss this film. 10 stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw _Ravenous_ at a 12:30 matinee with a handful of people in the
audience. Perhaps it should not have been marketed as a mainstream film.
This quirky little film is essentially serious, but has a tone that wobbles
into comedy as effortlessly as real life. The comedy does not make the film
any less powerful or disturbing. I would not be surprised if Antonia Bird
is a vegetarian, because the film begins with an absolutely sickening dinner
of something like prime rib that the wild editing style makes appear
absolutely disgusting. I went to Old Country Buffet that night and found
myself still repulsed by red meat, particularly ribs, after seeing this
film, even though the comment about them is spoken by Ives.
This film is nowhere near as graphic as I expected it to be, and it moves as swiftly across its running time as _Singin' In the Rain_, ably abetted by a very different form of music, a powerful score by two very different composers (Michael Nyman, one of my favorites, a contemporary classical (minimalist) composer, and Damon Albarn of the rock group Blur, who had previously collaborated on a track for a Noël Coward compilation) which really gets at angles different from what could be presented without it, particularly when Boyd has to choose whether or not to eat to survive.
However, the film suffers because of its obligatory death count. Many of the characters, particularly Chaplain Toffler, are quite interesting, but as they start to develop, they are killed. It almost seems like a statement on how horror films cheat their audiences out of characters that ought to be interesting, but usually aren't. The fact that so many are killed so early on does not help either.
While Pearce manages to be almost an everyman as Boyd, Carlyle delivers a performance that makes Francis Begbie look halfway sane. Particularly good is how different Colquhoun appears to be from Ives, despite being the same person. Jeffrey Jones as Hart is even stranger.
This film also heralds the return to significance of the title design, although it's a far cry from what Saul Bass was doing. The visuals of 1870s California (actually shot in Slovakia) are quite beautiful and mark a sharp contrast to the scenes shot in Mexico. The cinematography and editing are quite brilliant.
It deals with ironies of war and survival, but never seems to make a heavyhanded display at any particular point it tries to make. Instead, it lays things out for the viewer to chew on (pun intended), and does not try to draw attention to the scene that leaves it open for a sequel through its matter-of-fact presentation and no return to the scene at the very end once its shown and instead focuses on its rather poignant final shots. There is an effort, although not entirely successful, to not play the Indians stereotypically, but it is much better handled with Martha than with her brother, George.
This may not have the most profound script, but it is worth a look, particularly during the February-March doldrums of bad theatrical releases. It probably won't win any awards, but its score certainly deserves to, if only there were more effort to promote the album. It often reminded my of Kubrick's _The Shining_ and Dante's _The Howling_, and is destined to become a classic of the genre.
I love cinema. I mean, I truly LOVE cinema but sometimes you have the face
the fact that it can be a pretty hypocrite business from time to time.
Especially since the last ten years, everybody complains that there aren't
any good horror movies being made. Only uninspired Scream clones and
rip-off's. But that is a lie !! There are good and original thriller being
made but they just don't get many attention because they are "politically
incorrect". Ravenous is a perfect example of this. Made in 1999 and it stars
a few familiar faces but it went straight to video in my country and I never
saw it advertised. That's a real shame because movies like this prove that
there are still young directors active who're creative and talented. It's up
to the fans to discover movies like this and ignore the overload of
Ravenous has a very solid plot. simple but effective and supported by terrific acting performances. It shows a few of the darkest aspects of the human mind and, personally, I'm really intrigued by that. Subjects like Cannibalism and ancient Indian mythes are fascinating and when they're placed in a historical setting ( Mexican-American was of 1850 ) it even becomes better. This results in Ravenous being a very atmospheric and tense movie experience that you won't forget easily. The tension is built up slowly ( a bit too slow at first ) and the atmosphere of the cold and lonely Sierra Nevada is being portrayed very well. Guy Pierce is a great choice to play Captain John Boyd. His character is a cowardly figure with a complete lack of authority. He has to go through a battle himself and he's very messed up. The shows is obviously stolen by Robert Carlyle who is used to working with director Antonia Bird. His character is demonic and - duh - ravenous. A terrific performance and Carlyle manages to play his character with a lot of black humor and satanic charisma. David Arquette's role is pretty useless but it was great to see Jeffrey Jones again. Jones is a very decent actor and - even though he's frequently cast by Tim Burton - he's often overlooked and ignored. Ravenous is beautifully shot and some of the effects and make-up is pretty gruesome and explicit. But it isn't just mindless gore and violence so no complaints there. In fact, no complaints at all....Ravenous is a breath-taking movie from beginning till end and a must for anyone who believes that the genre of horror is dead.
Too tempting to make bad puns here, such as saying this film is "strong
meat," but I'll try not to.
Ravenous is not for the faint of heart (or of stomach), but if you can deal with the disturbing subject matter, this movie will reward you with a sardonic, intelligent script, slick direction, compelling performances, gorgeously haunting images and even--surprise!--a few laughs (albeit through clenched teeth). Tall order though it may be, this film leaps nimbly and unselfconsciously back and forth across the gulf separating humor and horror, taking the viewer breathlessly along for the ride. Not your tacky, run-of-the-mill slashfest, Ravenous draws you in with a skillful blend of psychological conflict, bone-gnawing (sorry) suspense, three-dimensional characters and real wit. Insofar as it defies ready classification, it has perhaps a tiny bit of spiritual kinship with An American Werewolf in London, which must have been every bit as challenging to market as this one apparently was. Don't let the amorphous nature of the ads stop you--this one is worth the trip.
Just be sure to stock up on vegetarian food beforehand.
Guy Pearce leads Jeffrey Jones, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette and more in a
action-filled, horror thriller. Set during the backdrop of the Civil War, it
follows Capt. John Boyd (Pearce) who is sent to the icy Nevada wilderness as
result of cowardice. The music is awesome, the costumes are wounderfully
designed and the elements of horror make this film one to see many times!
The art direction is great and the story is what horror fans have been
waiting for. Just like how the cover says, a cross between a vampire film
and a cannibalism film. Those two put together create one of the most
elaborate horror films ever.
I promise you that RAVENOUS will enthrall you until the very final frame. Hell, even the credits are exciting. The violence is pretty extreme (which is good) and the gloomy atmosphere and the icy bitterness of the Nevada Mountains is very good at creating a genuinely chilling mood for this awesome horror thriller! RAVENOUS: 5/5.
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