Ravenous (1999)

If the alternative was starvation, I would have absolutely no moral qualms with eating a dead person. I don’t care who it is. Plane crashed on a mountaintop? Sorry friend, I promise to eat your face last…right before make it into a hat to keep my ears warm. Shipwrecked on a remote island? Tom Hanks was an idiot for not at least trying to roast up a little bloated pilot. And if I go first, by all freaking means, eat my ass. Literally, eat it. I hope it’s delicious.

But what if you’re holed up with someone whose mind turns a little too quickly to the menu option of last resort? “I mean, sure, we still have plenty of wild mushrooms but, well, Bill’s looking awfully tired over there. Just sayin’.” I think we can all agree that’s pretty much unacceptable.

Will you be having the steak...or the steak?

The story: What a nice little 19th century soiree! Captain Boyd (Guy Pearce) is getting a nice, shiny medal for single-handedly capturing an enemy base during the Mexican-American War. Uh oh, he seems to be having some kind of flashback. Everyone’s all dirty and…is that blood? Probably to be expected, he’s been through an ordeal. Well now, that is quite a lot of blood. All over his face. And in his mouth. Okay, that’s pretty nasty. How about some supper! That’ll take the edge off. Just as long as it’s not a bunch of dudes stuffing their faces with huge, bloody chunks of…oh for crap’s sake. Go ahead and barf, Captain, let it out.

You've got something on your face.

After all that, Boyd is rewarded with an assignment to a remote California outpost called Fort Spencer by his commanding officer, ironically played by John Spencer (ill-advisedly affecting an awful, half-assed British accent like he’s starring in a high school production of Macbeth). The General knows Boyd earned his accolade by playing dead until the enemy dragged him back into their camp and that kind of cowardice has no place in the real man’s military. Oo-rah.

Where is the goddamn beach?

Boyd arrives at his post and meets his new comrades-at-arms, a colorful cast of characters including a bumbling Colonel, a moony evangelist, a dim-witted stoner (definitely more herb smoking in this movie than I would have thought historically appropriate), a hardline super soldier, and a pair of obligatory natives who will I’m sure not offer any opinions on the supernatural doings about to unfold.

Everything’s quiet until a mysterious stranger collapses outside the fort, apparently near death from exposure. He survives the night and regales his hosts with a grisly tale of desperation, madness and, yes, cannibalism. But could there be more to his story than he’s letting on? Maybe they should take a trip to the cave where the most insatiable of his traveling companions is still encamped. That is an outstanding plan.

First, we ate our pants.

Biggest letdown: Anything wrong with this movie is more or less inoffensive. I suppose David Arquette is (unsurprisingly) annoying but he doesn’t get much screen time so his impact is minimal. If anything bothered me – and again this is a minor gripe – it’s when the two stereotypical Native Americans act as raisonneurs, conveniently supplying the bulk of the supernatural exposition. Thankfully Ravenous avoids relying on them too heavily, especially as it nears its resolution.

Mmmm, white man need much wampum visit sky spirit make fire water. Aiaiaiaiaia!

Why you should watch: Really it’s as simple as saying Ravenous is a delightful movie. I mean, as delightful as institutionalized cannibalism can be. You have a skillful director (who IMDB says happens to be a vegetarian), a witty script, and a great cast, starting with Robert Carlyle. His cryptic madman act is far more interesting and far more of a driving force than Pearce’s bland everyman protagonist. And believe it or not, the overarching them is fairly optimistic, arguing that failure can be uplifting and weakness is a form of strength when properly applied.

Think these'll keep til tomorrow? Maybe if I put 'em in a Ziploc?

Memorable Moment: I fully admit I’m biased toward any snowy, secluded setting, but I just adored the few moments of calm before Carlyle’s character arrives and stirs everyone’s shit up. For a fleeting second, it’s just the Colonel and Captain Boyd, quietly kicking back with a couple of bourbons while the snow piles up outside. It has literally no bearing on the main thrust of the movie but it’s real nice.

Choice quote: “It’s lonely being a cannibal. Tough making friends.”

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2 Responses to “Ravenous (1999)”

  1. […] Ravenous – People, it’s what’s for dinner. […]

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