Ravenous (1999) Food for Thought


Cover of "Ravenous"
Cover of Ravenous

The 1999 fim Ravenous stars Guy Pierce, Robert Carlyle and was directed, eventually, by Antonia Bird. It is a story of cannibalism, without the usual OTT shots of gore. It does have more than enough gore to satisfy the most vociferous “gore-hound” but it doesn’t meander into “Cannibal Holocaust” territory.

The story focusses around Guy Pierce’s character, Captain John Boyd. Boyd is the lone survivor from his command who is wiped out in a battle with Mexican forces in the Mexican American war. He plays dead as his subordinates and commanding officer are killed and he is “stored” with the dead bodies while their blood drips into his mouth. He crawls out and takes the Mexican command post captive.

He is heralded as a hero, but his commanding officer knows better and ships Boyd off into the middle of nowhere. Once he arrives at the near deserted army post of Fort Spencer, he barely gets settled in before  a man stumbles in from the snow (Robert Carlyle) with a story of cannibalism and death.

The fort’s commanding officer Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones) decides to mount a rescue operation.

Despite all the production problems that this film suffered, which seemed to come from the film’s producer Laura Ziskin micro-managing the film to near death, it has turned out very well.

The production values are brilliant, the FX pretty much spot on, and the locations beautifully matched to the scenes in the film. In short, the “mild” horror film, boasts a great “twist” on the story of cannibalism with its vague references to the notorious cannibal Alferd Packer and the doomed Donner Party.

With the idea that once human flesh has been tasted,  (which per the Windego myth gives you superhuman powers) one can never go back to eating “normal” meat, the film dances macabrely into black comedy territory.

The cast all acquitted themselves very well. Guy Pierce, a local lad from Ely, Cambridgeshire, England has proven yet again what a talented chap he is. Robert Carlyle is an actor that I unashamedly adore. His work never disappoints and I would literally kill to one day get to work with the man, he blows everyone else off the screen each time he comes on. Jeffrey Jones gives his usual brilliant performance and even the tiny part that David Arquette was given did not fail to impress.

For all the problems that the film encountered before a full reel of film was even produced, it has managed to entertain very well.  Two directors and constant script reworking added to the micro-management from Ziskin, should have ruined this small film, but it still does a great job of telling its twisted story.

The cinematography is crisp, clear and full of texture. The lighting is adroit and capable. The sound is all encompassing, especially when introducing the sounds of the wooded mountains where a lot of action takes place.

The film can best be described as a “horror/western” and it is one of those little gems that amply satisfies my craving for two of my favourite film genres.

Overall, I give this film a surprised  4.5 out of 5 stars. I will admit to having to restrain myself from giving it a full 5 just for the presence of Carlyle alone. The film is available on UK Netflix at the moment and well worth watching, popcorn bowl in lap.

Surprisingly great film!

Robert Carlyle photocall prior to Radio 5 Live
Robert Carlyle photocall prior to Radio 5 Live (Photo credit: Edinburgh International Film Festival)

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

7 thoughts on “Ravenous (1999) Food for Thought”

      1. It’s actually a TV series and he’s a main character. The third season is starting soon but you need to start from the beginning because it is very much all connected and you won’t understand what’s going on. It’s really good though.

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      2. I’ll keep an eye out for it, although, at the moment, I find it hard to write my personal blog, let alone watch a telly series! Oh well, that’s the price of…working for a newspaper!! LOL

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