Classic Review – Ravenous (1999)



Directed by Antonia Bird

Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette

Review by Jordan

In my recent review of Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are I mentioned its similarity in subject matter with Antonia Bird’s bizarre thriller/horror/black comedy Ravenous, a fantastically unique film that survived its troubled shoot to exist as a little seen, yet hugely entertaining cannibalism tale with vampirish touches.

Opening with two quotes with varying levels of competency, the first from Friedrich Nietzche: “He that fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster,” and the second from anonymous: “Eat me,” Ravenous follows Captain John Boyd (Pearce) who after an act of cowardice in the Mexican-American war is assigned to the desolate snow encompassed Fort Spencer to be third in command among its few ragtag occupants.  After a short time the fort is visited by Colquhoun (Carlyle), a Scottish traveler beset with frostbite and on the verge of death, who, when recovering at an abnormal rate, tells the residents of Fort Spencer about the terrible incident that lead to him fleeing through the treacherous mountains, forcing Boyd, as well as Col. Hart (Jeffrey Jones), Pvt. Toffler (Jeremy Davies), Pvt. Reich (Neil McDonough) and native Indian George (Joseph Runningfox) to accompany him back to the cave  that harbored him and his company before their leader apparently began murdering and eating the starving travelers.

Once the troupe arrives at the cave, we are, in a terrifying fashion, formerly introduced to the term Windigo, meaning a ravenous creature with an intense craving for human flesh, who grows in strength once consuming it…

Unsettling, unnerving and juxtaposed with jovial music and moments of off-kilter humour, Bird’s forgotten oddity is required viewing for those that enjoy stories delving into the dark side of human nature, and aren’t opposed to bouts of shocking violence and gore. Robert Carlyle is gloriously deranged and enthralling as the mysterious Colquhoun, stealing each scene he’s in, and is supported strongly by Pearce, Jones and McDonough; despite his name being third billing and his face appearing in nigh every poster David Arquette has very few lines and with his underwritten and largely unimportant character fails to make any real impact. Perhaps the biggest star of the show here though is the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, which act as a tremendously dense and formidable backdrop to the action, particularly in one spectacular scene in which Boyd leaps off a cliff into the forest below, falling through the trees and downhill frenetically trying escape the Windigo.

From the obscure quotes, to an early close-up of a piece of undercooked steak and an ending which makes gruesome use of a giant bear trap, Ravenous is a wonderful cinematic journey that avoids cliches, predictability and genre like the plague.

4 medium-rare steaks out of 5

17 responses to “Classic Review – Ravenous (1999)

  1. ohhhhhhh my goodness I need to see this!! I’m such a fan of Robert Carlyle. Mostly because I’m so fascinated by and interested in British Underclass Cinema, and he appears in a lot of the films under that heading.

  2. I hadn’t heard of this one, but it sounds like something I’d be, wait for it, RAVENOUS for (God, Allah, Krishna, one of you please kill me now…). Too few recent horror films have that black sense of humour which was integral to some of their predecessors.
    By the way, have you guys seen The Descent, that British film about a group of women who go pot-holing and are assailed by weird beasts? It’s not funny, but it’s an awesome, claustrophobic horror story.

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