Movie Review: Ravenous

Ravenous

Distributed By: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: March 19, 1999

Running Time: 100 Minutes

!!Warning Minor Spoilers!!

Back in 1999, a nice Mexican-American War period piece about a little Fort in California and cannibals came out. This film has been in my collection for a while but I only just recently watched it. I’m kind of glad I waited this long as I’m more familiar with the actors. The two main stars are Robert Carlyle, most recently seen in Stargate Universe, and Guy Pearce, most recently seen in The King’s Speech. Both give good performances and memorable scenes. Guy, playing Capt. John Boyd and Robert as Colqhoud. Other notable actors being Neal McDonough, David Arquette and Jeffrey Jones. Their performances being as colorful as some of their other movie roles.

 The locations are simple yet effective in this thriller. A rustic fort built with lumber cut from the mountain’s surrounding forest. Eerie candle lit rooms with shadows playing across the walls. Mountains peppered with a nice coating of snow. Caves with dark creepy secrets that only the brave dare seek out. All of these work in tune with the cast to hold and mood an atmosphere of solitude and isolation. The wardrobe department also needs to be given a mention as all the clothes look proper for the period. Shoulders ripped, stained shirts and missing buttons all give a feel of realism to the characters. The reality that they are in the middle of nowhere with nothing close by be it people or buildings. For all of this, there is a large amount of American Flags throughout this film. They show up in the background or, in one scene, prominently in the center as two characters converse.

With all this setup I have to say I expected a little more from the musical score. The creepy tunes were alright but then there is some offset happy-go-lucky music that felt very out of place. The score was done by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn. Their choices in music really take you out of the movie sometimes which is a shame because other times it is used to accent situations perfectly. The uses of the happy tunes are really out of place and steal the realism from the film as a whole.

The main story is about Capt. John Boyd and what happens after he is sent to Fort Spencer in disgrace. He is third in command of a curious group of characters. They are what you would expect in a fort separated from the rest of the army. A drunk, some natives and, not surprisingly, a marijuana smoking private. The story becomes interesting after Robert Carlyle shows up half dead in the snow one night. They warm his frozen body up and are told a sad story of how misfortune became his caravan of travelers and how they all turned to cannibalism to survive throughout the long winter. They ate all the horses and had gone a long time without food before going down the self-eating road. They turned to eating their own, only after one of them dies of starvation. The main plot continues from there but needless to say, that it is a good way to start a tale.

The films pacing has an interesting twist in it, as a single story feels like two separate movies. There is an eerie distinct break in the middle though. It doesn’t feel all that wrong, but is there none-the-less. The method of storytelling changes later as well. More of a he said, he said situation, having two of the characters face off over the choice that must eventually be made. There are a lot of good conversation to be had between cannibals of different kinds in this film.

The gore factor is not very high, though there are some disturbing scenes in the film. Killings and caves full of dead bodies stripped of their flesh. The mythology is more entertaining as it talks about an old legend of a man who eats the flesh of another man will gain their strength. The downfall is that the one who partakes in the consumption of flesh will have an unquenchable hunger for flesh that can only be fulfilled by consuming flesh. Now, I know what you’re thinking, crazed hillbilly types killing and eating people….this is not one of those movies. They are actually quite civilized about eating one another, minus the brutality of the killings themselves of course. You’ll find them discussing the finer points of cannibalism over a nice stew of mixed vegetables, spices and a Privates leg flesh. There is a strange part of the legend though that is worth mentioning. If you do eat, no matter what your ailment or life threatening wound is, you will miraculously come back to full health. Taking a few hours or weeks to complete. This offers up some nice moments throughout the viewing of this film as well as good story opportunities.

Overall, I have to say this movie was an enjoyable surprise that I wasn’t expecting. I recommend it more as a watch alone or with a good buddy kind of film. Not really a movie you would watch with your significant other (unless they like this type of movie too). Just to leave you off with a teaser there is a Mexican standoff of cannibals with no guns in the film. See if you can figure that one out.

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