31 Days of Hell: Ravenous

 Andrew reviews the cannibalistic horror comedy cult classic, Ravenous.

Don't catch cold!
With the recent release of Eli Roth's ode to Ruggero Deodato with his Amazonian cannibal horror effort The Green Inferno, I felt it was time to take a closer look at one of the subgenre's most overlooked and beloved cult items: Ravenous.  Starring Guy Pearce as Second Lieutenant Boyd who during the Mexican-American War which raged from 1946 to 1948, he is exiled by his commanding officer to Fort Spencer in the Sierra Nevada mountains after an act of cowardice on his behalf is exposed.  Upon settling in the fort, he quickly learns it's comprised of a Motley Crue of outcasts including but not limited to David Arquette as a stoner, Jeremy Davies as his usual eccentric and hyperactive self and Jeffrey Jones as the crusty and worn Colonel Hart.  Fort Spencer seems to be a decent enough hiding place from shame, that is until a mysterious visitor named Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) arrives with a story involving his wagon train companions being forced to resort to cannibalism after being snowbound.  Colonel Hart is quick to act in the hope of rescuing survivors, not knowing there's more to Colqhoun's story than he quickly lets on.

A crossbreed between the Wendigo myth, vampirism, cannibalism, period drama and black comedy, Ravenous is quite the delicious stew, no pun intended.  Full of lush and epic cinematography of snow covered mountaintops, detailed production design germane to the period and buckets full of chum, this is the kind of clever and hip offbeat gross out comedy that tags the gag reflex as much as it tickles your ribs.  It's also surprisingly genuinely scary in a lot of moments, due in large part to the film's eccentric and inventive soundtrack by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn.  Somewhere between gothic industrial while utilizing instruments and sound samples authentic to the timeframe, it's the kind of soundtrack that is so peculiar and unique it dares to take you out of the movie with its abrupt changes in tone and truly weird sound engineering.  There's a loose air of post-modernity running through the picture thanks to the score, as though we're looking at a period drama with very immediate sensibilities guiding the narrative.  Performances across the board are solid, with Robert Carlyle in top form as the mercurial Colqhoun, having gleeful fun with the role.  Guy Pearce's catalyst is something of a kid cousin to Val Kilmer but he's more or less a doorway for Carlyle to prance about in a top hat and cane. 

Want a bite?
Ravenous was something of a troubled production and at times it definitely shows in the finished result.  Shot on location in the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia and Durango, Mexico, the film's original director Milcho Manchevski clashed with studio Fox 2000's scheduling impositions before ultimately being fired and replaced by Antonia Bird at Carlyle's request.  Bird herself also wound up clashing with the studio who imposed additional editing against her wishes such as additional voiceover narration by Guy Pearce and the final product is somewhere between her vision and that of the studio's.  Costing around $12 million to produce, Ravenous took in a meager $2 million and mostly received negative reviews save for Roger Ebert's glowing praise. When it was eventually dumped on a non-anamorphic DVD, Ravenous found a second life and quickly catapulted to cult status.  In the years since, it's regarded as one of the classiest and wittiest cannibal horror comedies in the subgenre and sonically sounds so different than anything you've heard before musically its worth the price of admission for that alone!  If your thinking of seeing Eli Roth's dismal and underwhelming The Green Inferno, my friendly suggestion is to check out Ravenous instead, which will provide as many laughs as it does scares with its truly quirky attitude towards flesh eating.  Bon Appetit!


-Andrew Kotwicki

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