Ravenous

by Evan ODell 2/8/10

(1999) Directed by Antonia Bird. Written by Ted Griffin. Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella , Joseph Runningfox, and Neal McDonough.

This is probably the cannibal film with the largest budget, at 12 million. Based on the mythical Wendigo, of the Algonquian-speaking tribes in the northern United States and Canada, which can possess humans who have turned cannibal making them violent and filled with hunger for human flesh. Though it also gives them increased speed, agility, and a mutant healing factor.

Ravenous is rather unique as a period piece set during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Nominated for three Saturn Awads, including Best Horror Film and Best Music. The music was composed by minimalist composer, Michael Nyman, who wrote songs for the banjo. Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz also contributed to the soundtrack. Certain songs were re-used in MAGNOLIA and HOSTEL.

Guy Pearce is the star here, but it's Robert Carlyle, who first caught my attention as the crazy friend in TRAINSPOTTING, who steals the show. Interesting fact, Guy Pearce doesn't say a full sentence before the 25 minute mark. The story Carlyle tells is based on that of Alfred Packer. Though when he mentions Denver, that is an historical anachronism, as Denver wouldn't be founded for ten years. This was West Wing star, John Spencer's final film role.

Ever notice how when a horror film is really big, it seems to miraculously jump ship when it comes to marketing. Films like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and I AM LEGEND, both firmly rooted in horror but neither marketed as such. Those films become action-adventure, or crime thriller. No longer horror, but something more innocuous and safe to consume for the masses. Perhaps it's the budget or the talent, but despite copious amounts of gore, this feels like a well polished drama. Though, the super natural serial killer plants it firmly in horror. I like horror films with top-notch production values. I really enjoyed this film on it's initial release. Time has done little to dull the memory. The subtle streak of black humor I find quite appealing. .

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Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) was promoted to Captain for his heroism in overtaking a Mexican position single-handed, but his commander suspects Boyd is a coward and sends him to the remote Fort Spencer in the California Sierra Nevadas. Once there, a man by the name of Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) enters camp, claiming to be malnourished. He relays a harrowing tale of cannibalism when an Army Captain, Colonel Ives, leads his party astray in the mountains. The Native guide, George (Joseph Runningfox), warns the others of the Wendigo, a demon that possesses man and fills him with an insatiable appetite should he consume human flesh. Colonel Heart (Jeffrey Jones) puts together a party to determine the location of their camp and assess the situation.

 

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