31 Days Of Horror #25: Ravenous (1999)
I love Ravenous. Absolutely love it. I’ve loved it since I first saw it, I love it when I get to recommend it to other people, and I somehow love it even more every time I rewatch it. It’s an impressively gruesome tale focused on cannibalism that also mixes in wendigo lore, and it also happens to be a great comedy, if you like your laughs pitch black and sometimes spattered with blood.
Guy Pearce plays Capt. John Boyd, a man who is sent to a remote military outpost as reward for an act of courage that was borne from an act of cowardice (you’ll see what I mean when you watch the film). The outpost is soon visited by a man named Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle), which leads to a tale of wilderness survival, bad decisions, and cannibalism. And, as the old saying goes, you are what you eat.
Antonia Bird directs, helped by a sharp script from Ted Griffin, and sets the tone perfectly from the opening credits onwards. Juxtaposing battlefield horror with attempts to continue with a normal life, Ravenous uses the horror genre to play around with ideas of social acceptability, PTSD, and unusual diets. The wonderful collection of characters (including a doctor who is almost always inebriated, a young clergyman without any real flock, and the devilish Colqhoun) helps to keep things light, even as the heart of the film grows darker and darker, right up until a hugely satisfying finale.
Every single cast member here is on top form, pitching their performances beautifully. Pearce walks throughout most of the movie with a shadow over his soul, either wrestling with his past or being confused by his latest circumstances. Carlyle is positively impish, although his character runs the gamut from vulnerable to afraid to arrogant and quite terrifying. The scenes in which Pearce and Carlyle debate the morality of their situation are among the best in the film, with both men delivering some of their best work, no small praise indeed considering how consistent their quality of work is. Jeffrey Jones, Jeremy Davies, and Neal McDonough are also fantastic in major supporting roles, and you also get great moments for Stephen Spinella and John Spencer. David Arquette isn’t give the best character to work with, leading to a performance that is slightly out of alignment with the rest of the film, which makes it a saving grace that most of his scenes are alongside more convincing turns from Joseph Runningfox and Sheila Tousey.
If you need any more reasons to convince you to watch the film then I’ll heap plenty of praise on the sublime soundtrack by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman, the damn fine stuntwork that is used in one or two jaw-dropping sequences, and some of the best final dialogue ever uttered by a baddie.
DIRECTOR: ANTONIA BIRD
WRITER: TED GRIFFIN
STARS: GUY PEARCE, ROBERT CARLYLE, JEFFREY JONES, JEREMY DAVIES, NEAL MCDONOUGH, STEPHEN SPINELLA, JOHN SPENCER
RUNTIME: 101 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: CZECH REPUBLIC/UK/USA