Director – Antonia Bird
Cast – Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella, Neal McDonough, Joseph Runningfox, Bill Brochtrup, Sheila Tousey
Release Year – 1999
Reviewed by John of the Dead
My search for more cannibal films lead me to Ravenous, which I had heard good things about in the past but never managed to give a watch to until now. I expected the usual cannibal effort going into this one, but I was dead wrong as Ravenous gave me a very unique storyline that I have never before come across that delivers heavily on unique attributes. Complimented with plenty of horror in addition to this great story, Ravenous makes for one of the most unique horror efforts of the 1990s.
After receiving a promotion for his “bravery” during the Mexican-American War, Captain John Boyd(Guy Pearce; Memento, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Prometheus) is soon demoted to a lowly fort in the wilderness of California when it is learned his bravery resulted from an extreme act (or lack thereof) of weakness. Late one night a Scottsman, F. W. Colqhoun(Robert Carlyle; 28 Weeks Later), appears outside the fort suffering from severe frostbite, and after the soldiers take him in to recover he tells them a grisly tale. Colqhoun speaks of the cannibalism he just survived, but unfortunately for the unknowing soldiers the cannibalism he speaks of is far from over.
Cannibal films have always been an enjoyable horror sub-genre to me because they usually come with heavy amounts of gore, and the idea of cannibalism is still a somewhat taboo element that only makes the sub-genre even more fun to experience. Our story stars off well by focusing on the character that is John Boyd, who rides the wave of his “bravery” and soon finds himself facing retribution for what really happened during his time in the Mexican-American war. Soon after he is transferred is when the storyline really kicks into gear with the arrival of Colqhoun. I loved the idea of a strange man showing up and telling them a crazy tale about how he and his men were subject to a cannibalistic leader who ate them one by one before he managed to escape. Fittingly enough, the soldiers find it their duty to investigate the incident, which according to Colqhoun took place within a short vicinity, and it is then that they learn the true meaning behind Colqhoul’s ghastly tale. I loved this twist and found it to come with much suspense thanks to how it was employed, and from then on out the storyline rides on its wave of creativity. Numerous twists and turns abound, with each of them providing more and more conflict and resulting in good horror as well. It is hard to speak further without giving away any more spoilers than I already have (you already know there is going to be a “twist”), which leaves me to applaud first-time writer Ted Griffin (who went on to write Ocean’s Eleven and Matchstick Men) for giving us an awesome, creative, and well-crafted storyline.
Director Antonia Bird did a mostly positive job executing this awesome story, with great atmosphere and awesome sets that had me visually engaged and loving what I was seeing. Her execution of the horror was positive, giving us live-action gore wherever possible and providing good tension at times. Our characters give good performances, especially that of Robert Carlyle, and while I usually enjoy Guy Pearce in films I found his performances to be a bit dull, which to his defense could have been in direct correlation with how unexciting his character was written. I do have one major complaint against Antonia Bird’s direction that I felt really kept her back from giving us an even better experience, and that was her usage of a completely, terribly horrible soundtrack. Time and time again I found the music utterly annoying and detrimental to the scene that was going on, making this one of the few instances where I really hated the music in a good horror film.
Overall, Ravenous is a unique cannibal film that brings much more to the table than the usual cannibal effort, and does so thanks to a well-crafted story. Great performances and good direction at times compliment the story, making for an enjoyable effort for those who want something different from one of horror’s most popular yet seldom used sub-genres.