Film Review: Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous-bluray-coverSYNOPSIS:

Captain John Boyd’s promotion stations him at a fort where a rescued man tells a disturbing tale of cannibalism.

REVIEW:

One of the true underrated cult gems, “Ravenous” is a film that has managed to stay under the radar for quite awhile. With its new release to bluray, the film might finally have a chance to garner the respect that it deserves with a fresh cut arriving onto shelves. A film with a cast that contains the acting talents of Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, and David Arquette should be a movie that deserves merit on “that” alone, however “Ravenous” is simply a cool off-beat slightly horrific dark-comedy-style of film that offers more than the usual fare.

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1999 may have come and gone, leaving behind a product that “may have” suggested something different than what it ended up being. It was a time when horror movies ranged from really good to bad and so a movie bearing the title of “Ravenous” might have easily placed the film into an assumed category of “another bad horror film”, than the inventive story it ended up being. I distinctly remember passing a local comic convention table during its promotional period that contained a number of teeth-bearing book marks announcing its arrival. I did finally catch up with the product however, I’m sure it took others longer to discover its darkly 1800′s colonial old war genius.

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Directed by Antonia Bird, “Ravenous” has got enough “meat” (excuse the pun) to keep you entertained an guessing all the way. It is a movie about cannibalism but not in the direction of a zombie film or like product. Most will relate the story context to the famed legend of the Donner Party.

Second Lieutenant John Boyd is (Guy Pearce) a recently promoted Captain who came into his new ranking per way of cowardice. Faking his death during a Mexican-American War Boyd manages to overtake the Mexican command unit. Though due to the method he used to acquire it, he is assigned to a team at Fort Spencer in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

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Upon getting acquainted with his newly assigned rustic location and its eclectic group of men, Boyd is soon quickly startled by a passerby strange lurking out in the cold. The stranger who calls himself Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) begins to tell the men his story tricking them to follow him back to the cave. The unit heads out into the bitter cold to investigate the reported cave where the alleged activity took place. The activity itself provides a perfect location for a trap in waiting.

“Ravenous” doesn’t take too long to get to the intention of its story, with the term Wendigo passed around by the local natives, “Ravenous” gets down and dirty on its foundation of internal changes that occur within men who feast on other humans flesh. As a last resort of survival Colqhoun discovers an alternative that results from his lack of food when him and his team are forced to take residence in a nearby cave during the hard months of winter. Cannibalism turns into a new form of hunger that only grows into a desire for more sustenance in the form of human flesh. The act itself offers the recipient a new sense of vigor and strength that we come to believe is the base behind the locals Wendigo legend.

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“Ravenous” presents its story with a touch of dark comedy that rolls off of its absurdities. We get the joke pretty early on setting the stage for alot of bloodletting and nasty bits. The aspect of a the 1800′s works in this case as a great time period to dig into its more modern horror stylings that center on flesh-eating.

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Highlight performances in Ravenous include Stephen Spinella as Major Knox and David Arquette as Private Cleaves. The film itself was reported to have been shot at the locations of the Tatra Mountains, Durango, Mexico, and Slovakia.

The misrepresenting poster used during this time can be seen here (which often reminded me more of the Rolling Stones than anything).

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“Ravenous” is a film that has earned itself a cult status among other releases during this era. It has been called by many as “one of the best cult films to come out of the 1990′s”. A film that can be enjoyed in repeat viewings, “Ravenous” also gives you some great earlier performances by the movie’s core acting talents. The film’s charm arrives in its combined elements and hodgepodge of mixed genres.

Ravenous can now be found in stores under its bluray release from the team at Shout! Factory

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