Cranky Critic® Reviews
Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle,Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey
Jones Screenplay by Ted Griffin
Directed by Antonia Bird
Gruesome, with an occasional dash of very funny. [Rated
All of you folks
who love slice 'n' dice, chop off a limb scare flicks should head
on out to Ravenous, to see what truly gruesome moviemaking
is all about.
Ravenous sets new standards for going where few movies have
thematically gone before, into a world where Cannibalism is commonplace.
Yeah, it turns my stomach too, but it allows screenwriter Ted
Griffin to chow down and upchuck some very sick and very, very
funny cannibal jokes.
for that last sentence, but it's a requirement of Chapter VII, Section
6, paragraph (b) of the incredibly confidential Film Critics handbook.
That 'graph requires the use of parody when a film is really well
made (ie. Film Students will rave) but whose net result is an utterly
disgusted paying audience. Everything Cranky wrote in that first
sentence holds true; about why I don't like slice 'n' dice and also
about why I can savor bits and pieces ... sorry ... scraps ... damn
... elements of this flick.
Set in Northern
California, 1847, Ravenous is the story of military coward,
Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) who played dead during a Mexican-American
battle and, after tasting the blood of other corpses piled above
him, overcame the enemy and single-handedly captured their position.
The tasting of the blood is just a fuse attached to the trigger
of an Indian legend called Weendigo, in which a warrior is
infused with the spirit and power of an enemy whose flesh he eats.
He also gets a remarkable healing factor (which, like alternate
spelling Wendigo, is probably trademarked by Marvel Comics, who
played with this sort of character years ago).
hero and banished to the very isolated Fort Spencer, Boyd settle
in to a life filled with colorful Army dregs -- eternally drunk
Doctor Knox (Stephen Spinella); a non-preachy fundamentalist
(Jeremy Davies); a cook (David Arquette) who prefers
peyote and the usual nutcase of a soldier (Neal McDonough).
The Commanding Officer (Jeffrey Jones) takes it all in stride,
preferring to wait out the winter with a pile of old books.
Into the camp
comes a Scotsman named Calhoun (Robert Carlyle), who tells
a tale of being lost in the mountains for three months without food
- "I didn't say I had nothing to eat" - and confesses to an act
of cannibalism. Not his fault, y'see, but there are survivors and
one very hungry ex-soldier still out there. After an Indian woman
at camp tells Boyd about Weendigo, the troops set out on a rescue
mission. All too late they discover that the folks that need rescue
are themselves. Which is more than I should tell you.
direction and Anthony B. Richmond's spectacular cinematography
creates a wilderness where one false step can, if not kill you,
make you life a bloody mess. Guns are used, but knives are the preferred
weapon and this flick does not hold back on the unpleasantness of
things like disembowelment and fantasies of coeur tartare. We haven't
even gotten to the funny stuff yet, in which survivor Boyd must
face down the spirit of Weendigo that becomes his new commanding
officer (again, Robert Carlyle).
the acting is across the board top notch, with terrific characterizations
by Carlyle and Jeremy Davies as the meek li'l religious guy. The
story makes absolute sense; yeah, the Weendigo is a bit of a stretch
but it makes everything work and the sick humor is very funny. Ravenous
will not bore you, though it may turn your stomach and have
you wondering how things like this get made.
worked on a film that had critics spewing that last remark. The
answer is that they get made 'cuz someone gets convinced that a
story is solid. A gripping tale that can be economically made and
sold. Ravenous is all that. It's also just too damned gruesome
for my taste. I can't even project how the folk who like special
effects violence will react when this film's chop chop is made to
look as close to the real thing as possible. It is truly gruesome.
You are warned.
a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able
to set his own price to Ravenous, he would have paid...
film students only level and Ravenous falls into that second
category for me. It is one grim story. One which needs to afford
you the ability to stop tape, get up and walk away if it becomes