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Ravenous movie review


Savage Melodrama or Ultra Black Comedy? Why choose when you can have both in this blood-soaked cannibal Western.

It's 1847 and Captain Boyd, an unusually squeamish war hero (Guy Pearce), has been sent to the farthest outpost of California as penance for throwing up during dinner (a rather rare steak) and, oh, being a coward.

Here life looks pretty dull until one cold night when Colquhoun (Robert Carlyle) turns up, looking rather well fed for someone who's "been without food for three months". There's a story here, and he quickly proceeds to tell of six merry settlers getting lost with their wagon train and resorting to you guessed it, eating each other when winter comes and the food runs out.

Movie Poster, Ravenous, Fravenous.jpg - 22152 Bytes
Movie poster, Ravenous
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But he's horrified and despite quite enjoying it, he runs off when it's down to the last three. Next morning, a group sets off from the camp off with Colquhoun to save Mrs McCleery, the last of the settlers. And bring the evil Colonel Ives to justice (who suggested the cannibalism in the first place).

You can guess by the way Boyd's asking Colqhoun questions that the cannibal thing isn't going to go away and it's only a little bit longer before Ravenous stops being a melodrama (with a loud, distracting and sometimes inappropriate soundtrack) and turns downright silly. It does make a better black comedy though, and the actors seem more comfortable playing it that way. And it's easier to get away with bringing people back from the dead…but then it goes back to melodrama! I couldn't decide who was more confused, me, the actors or the director? At least the soundtrack calmed down…I should have known from that bit about the steak in the beginning.

The film drags out every cannibal cliché in the book. You'll find the American Indian folklore of Weendigos (men who eat flesh to take on another's strength and essence) combined with the true story of the Donner Pass, a group of settlers in 1846-7 who got lost in the snow and well, survived by eating each other. Yes, Ali, believe it or not, Ravenous is "based on a true story".

And if you believe that, you'll believe that cannibals are strong and disease-resistant, can come back from the dead even. But they're also lonely, immoral creatures who have trouble making friends. That's why they'll stab you and offer you human stew when you're bleeding to death, because they know you want it, and they want a family of their own.

Ok, so maybe I'm expecting too much. It's not that bad, even funny in bits. I just got confused with all the melodrama and comedy stuff and all. I don't know what you could do with it though, a western about cannibals is always going to be a difficult project. The cast and crew is strong and experienced, and no small amount of money has been thrown at it to make it work. Perhaps they all needed the money. Unfortunately, most of the funny bits are unintentional, and the intended ones fell flat.

Personally, I'd recommend it for teenagers on first dates (who haven't eaten dinner yet) or horror video nights. My stomach was still churning hours later, and most of my fellow audience members seemed to feel likewise. At the preview they were even giving away meat packs to those of us brave enough to still eat meat afterwards. A nice touch but I won't be among them.

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Nicky Jenkins

Editor's Note: It's a coincidence that I assigned this movie to a vegetarian, honest, trooly, rooly
See also:
Guy Pearce also appears in L.A. Confidential
Robert Carlyle also appears in The Full Monty, and Trainspotting
David Arquette also appeared in Scream and Scream 2, Dream with the Fishes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Never Been Kissed
Jeffrey Jones also appears in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ed Wood, Bettlejuice, The Hunt for Red October, Houseguest and Valmont
John Spencer also appears in The Negotiator, Cop Land, The Rock, Green Card, Sea of Love and Black Rain
Stephen Spinella also appears in Great Expectations
Jeremy Davies also appears in Going All the Way and Saving Private Ryan Neal McDonough also appears in Star Trek: First Contact

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Just the facts:

Title: Ravenous (1999)
Written by: Ted Griffin
Directed by: Antonia Bird
Produced by: Adam Fields, David Heyman, Tim Van Rellim
Edited by: Neil Farrell
Director of Photography: Anthony B. Richmond
running time: 101 minutes
rating: MA

The Players: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette,, Neal McDonough
Official website: www.foxmovies.com/ravenous
For session times of current films, use the cinema listings on the Movie links page. For scheduled release dates, see the coming attractions section.

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Filed: Apr-1999 : Last updated: : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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