Surviving as a cult film after being written off by most audiences, the bizarre plot of Ravenous is a twist for British director Antonia Bird, whose filmography focuses primarily on realism. Yet straight from the trailer's satirical tag line "you are who you eat," this dark comedy is steeped in irreverence. But can cannibalism really be made funny? Bird tries with lines like, "It's lonely being a cannibal; it's tough making friends," but for the most part it's what one might guess, given the topic: strange, graphic and disturbing, full of roasted carcasses and fleshy stew. The cast is a kick to watch: Guy Pearce's morally righteous Captain Boyd is fascinating given his desperate dilemma and Robert Carlyle's Colqhoun eerily transforms himself from a convincing, spooked victim to a menacing and unrelenting predator. The performances, plus a vampirish vibe due to its isolated setting, totemic symbolism, and ghoulish-giggle background sounds, add up to an interesting near-miss of a film that too uncomfortably blends farce, satire, and horror. Ravenous is close to being a genuine cult find but may ultimately leave all but potential serial killers hungry for the gem of a movie it might have been.
In 1847, many Americans made the journey across our continent in search of gold. Many failed to complete the journey or see their dreams come to light. Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) found his way here thanks to an act of cowardice during the Mexican-American War; he has been banished to a desolate military outpost in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Upon his arrival, he is greeted by a rag-tag group of soldiers manning the fort: Hart (Jeffrey Jones), the despondent commanding officer; Toffler (Jeremy Davies), the company chaplain; Knox (Stephen Spinella), the drunken doctor; Reich (Neal McDonough), the only real soldier of the group; and Cleaves (David Arquette), the heavily medicated camp cook. One day, Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) stumbles into their camp. The half-starved Scotsman had been traveling with a group of settlers until they were snowbound. Unable to move forward, they took refuge in a cave, where once they ran out of food, they were forced to resort to cannibalism. Colqhoun barely escaped the madness -- or did he? Boyd and the soldiers hear of the old Indian legend of the Wendigo, which states a man who tastes the flesh of another steals that man's strength, spirit and essence. His hunger, however, will become an unstoppable craving. Like a vampire, the more he eats, the more he wants, and the stronger he will become, with death the only escape from the madness. The soldiers are soon drawn into the frenzy and Boyd is soon left with the choice of eating or being eaten.
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