Director: Antonia Bird

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Ravenous I loved Ravenous (1999). It's no big classic or anything, but for a cannibal vampire film it's way better than I ever expected the material to be treated. Plus it had a girl director. I want more girl horror directors!).

The music was co-written by Damon Albam who is a primary reason the animated rock band Gorillaz is so god damned good, & Michael Nyman, the guy who has so brilliantly scored Peter Greenaway films.

So this one was one splendid score, mixing a folky period sensibility with the modern. A couple bits of the music are intrusive but even those contribute to the film's originality.

It's the mid-1800s, time of America's war with Mexico. A soldier (Guy Pierce) playing dead so he won't be killed like everyone else is buried under a mound of his fellow soldiers, with blood drip-drip-dripping in his mouth, a fact we'll have to keep in mind for later.

Having survived through cowardice, he's afterward reassigned to a Sierra Nevadas outpost as far from anywhere as possible, where he is captain over an array of misfits & outcasts. Mountains of Slovakia beautifully double for wilderness California.

RavenousOne morning a man is found in dire straits. His name is Colquhoun (Robert Carlyle), survivor of a Donner Party type catastrophe, only as it will turn out he just outright murdered his fellows in order to eat them.

For a low budget period film it's surprisingly convincing just as an adventure story. But it's headed toward Gore Flick Extraordinaire comparable to the seediest hatchet-in-the-head chainsaw-down-the-back cheapy except set in the pioneer west with actors who really can act, to whit:

David Arquette is the fort's mentally altered cook. Joseph Runningfox & Sheila Tousy are Indians who take refuge in the fort & know from the start that any man who eats human flesh & blood will be transformed into a Wendigo. Jeremy Davies is the fort's chaplain. Neal McDonough the fort's "real hero" type. Plus others who turn in great little performances.

And it's a whole new experience to see the such grand guinol acted out by real actors as though the story matters. The gore FX are pretty good too, but it's the acting that sells this thing as an actual story rather than just another shlocker, Pearce & Carlysle in particular having true character-actor faces that are believably of the period played.

There's enough sinister humor that on this film's first release it was advertised as though it were a black comedy, & some folks must've hated what they got instead of laughs. But I first saw it in a theater packed with horror fans & we all just about hit the ceiling with delight.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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