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)

Scream 4…Sidney’s Last Stand

Scream 4
Scream 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I fell in love with the original Scream after watching the first five minutes. When Wes (we are not worthy) Craven killed off the “name” star in the first reel. With this one action he showed us, the audience, that he knew and loved horror films and thrillers. The little nod to Hitchcock’s killing of Janet Leigh at the beginning  of Psycho told me immediately that this was a film-maker that was going to have fun with the genre.

Scre4m aka Scream 4 is the last of the Scream franchise. I had real reservations about the last of the Screams. I was afraid that Wes had gone to the well once too often and that the bucket he drew up would be empty. Boy was I wrong. This was a brilliant end to a series that has always shown a stroke of genius in each sequel. Yes I know that Wes cannot take all the credit. These films work because of the writing and the acting as well.

Scre4m opens with a murder similar to the first Scream films. Although it comes to us initially via various trailers to the fictional Stab films in the Scream verse. We are introduced to Sidney Prescott’s cousin Jill, played with great panache by Emma Roberts. We then get to see all our favourite living characters from the previous films.   Deputy Dewey, played again by David Arquette, is now the sheriff of Woodsboro and has married Gale.  Gale Weathers-Riley, played by Courtney Cox, has retired from the mainstream news world and is trying to write “the great American novel” and not getting very far with it. Sidney Prescott, played again by Neve Campbell, is now a writer. Her book, about living through and dealing with the events from the previous films, is a bestseller. She returns to Woodsboro as part of her book signing tour.

Sidney Prescott
Sidney Prescott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We also meet the new cast of “victims.” Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed, one of the slew of friends that Jill has, makes the most of her part. She was born to play this kind of role. I of course still think of her as the cheerleader from Heroes, you know “Save the cheerleader save the world.” But she does a brilliant job as the future “man-eater” Kirby. The other memorable friend of Jill’s is Rory Culkin as Charlie Walker. Charlie is the Randy substitute in this Scream film. A necessary replacement since Randy is dispatched by Ghost Face in Scream 2. Although not in the victim department I have to mention Marley Shelton. As Deputy Judy Hicks she rocked it out of the park. Her characterisation of the love lorn Deputy Judy was both comedic and scary, sometimes at the same time.

Of course Ghost Face is still voiced by Roger Jackson. Could anyone else have done it? I think not. His voice is synonymous with Ghost Face and always will be. I can’t reveal anything else about the plot because I will be heading into spoiler territory if I do. I can and will tell you it deals with the theme of the internet and it’s propensity to make celebrities out of those who know how to use it.

So that’s it. I have, like so many other Scream fans I am sure, waited for this film for ages. I loved it so much that I sat through two viewings on two separate occasions. I also couldn’t wait for a special edition blu-ray to come out. As much as I want special features, in this case it did not matter.

So  hats off to Director Wes Craven for once again pulling it off. The grande finale of all the Scream’s was nigh on perfect.

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