Gimme Something to Watch: Ravenous

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“He was licking me!!!” – Private Toffler

Following the Mexican-American war, Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is “promoted” to a remote station in California where he joins a ragtag group of soldiers who have little to do but drink and watch the snow fall; for it was an act of cowardice which helped him win the battle.  It is after they take in a weak and starving traveler (Robert Carlyle) that Boyd and his companions learn of the curse of Wendigo, wherein the man who eats the flesh of another man gains his strength.

1999:  The year I graduated high school. A friend and I were eating at Captain D’s one Friday night and he said, “we should go see Ravenous, it’s some kind of cannibal movie.”  So we went to the theatre to find out that we were too late (it spent a whole week on the big screen). When I saw it for the first time on DVD, I declared it my favorite film… and 16 years later it has kept that title. (Here I’m continuing crazytaco_12’s series of movie reviews, and therefore will adhere by the same preferences as he [click here].) Since the film is old, there are a few spoilers contained within, which I will save for AFTER the trailer.

Ravenous is an amalgamation of movie genres, including – but not limited to – horror, drama, dark comedy, period piece, cannibal, and vampire. It’s the dark comedy portion that’s not obvious to all. Showing the film to countless friends of mine (some who deemed it too gory to watch) very few found it funny. This is a movie that I watch and think to myself, “NOBODY from the studio interfered with this or that?!” It’s a bizarre story with bizarre characters, with the final fight being the closest thing to a Hollywood moment. Also, the soundtrack is 100% unflushable (will come back to this).

(This is where I planned on including the trailer; but I watched it and it’s so fucking horrible that I cannot embed. I won’t even link to the abomination. THAT is a studio trying to make an incredible indie film look like a Hollywood blockbuster. If you watch the trailer, please DO NOT judge the film based on that. Instead, please enjoy one of the wonderful songs from the soundtrack…)

*SPOILERS FOLLOW*

There are a couple of main themes to grasp in the film, so first let’s tackle the most obvious one:  cannibalism as a metaphor for over-indulgence (let’s lump consumerism in there while we’re at it). Man who eats the flesh of another man gains an increased appetite along with his lust for more power. Colonel Ives, the film’s antagonist, found the cure for tuberculosis in human flesh, but he didn’t stop there. He continued to indulge because of his wanton appetite for more strength (later on horse meat becomes too ordinary for him). The curse of the Wendigo can also be related to the American lifestyle of consumerism: Do I buy the fuel-efficient Toyota or the sexy V8 Lexus? Why save money to buy something when I’ve got this shiny, new Visa card?

Another prevalent theme is the classic scenario of good versus evil. Captain Boyd is not a likable character, something we learn instantly in how he won the battle (faked his own death to get behind enemy lines). He is weak, can’t stand the sight of blood, and commits some truly heinous acts. His internal struggle lasts most of the film, but in the end he realizes all that he has to sacrifice to defeat Colonel Ives. Does a person embrace the curse of the Wendigo and continue to eat more and more… or does he eat just enough to survive? “Eat to live… don’t live to eat,” an effective quote used during a dinner scene towards the end.

It has elements of horror but it isn’t a particularly scary film (though it does offer suspense aplenty). There is enough gore that some viewers might lose their appetite. It provides plenty of dark laughs, and even breaks the fourth wall a few times, “it’s hard making friends when you’re a cannibal.” The costumes and sets are simply terrific, some of the shots of the snow-covered mountains are breathtaking. The acting mostly good all around, though Jeremy Davies’ character can be a little over the top. Funnily enough, David Arquette is in it but he’s given so little to do that he nails the part. Oh yeah, it also features Jeffrey Jones (remember him?) with some excellent dialogue, total dead-pan delivery.

Onto that unflushable soundtrack, composed by Damon Albarn (yes, that Damon Albarn) and Michael Nyman.  It’s a unique mixture of backwoods country, orchestra, military-style marching band, and haunting suspense. I’ve heard nothing like it, and neither have you. I’ve spoken to many a person who doesn’t like the film but loves the soundtrack! The movie has a RottenTomatoes scores of 43% but the soundtrack has a 4.5 star average on Amazon. (The following song is 8 minutes long, go ahead and start it before heading to the comments section.)

This film was so obviously a work of passion for those involved, though it didn’t make much money at the box office. Sadly, director Antonia Bird passed away last year. The flawed characters, humor, themes, direction, suspense, dialogue, soundtrack, and action make this my favorite film of all time. Aaaaaaaand it’s fun picking an underdog… “your favorite movie is The Godfather, that’s cute.”

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  • Edward #negrod4eva

    JJM I have wanted to watch this for awhile so I skipped the spoiler section.

    • excited to hear your opinion, homeboy

    • we should do a ToH fest projection with a dusty videobeam in a basement and drink 5 gallons of orange juice. (I want to go there 🙁

      • VVorld Peace

        5 gallons of orange juice?

        • Hey! I love Orange Juice! It’s one of my fav juice ever <3

          • VVorld Peace

            If orange juice fronted Black Sabbath, which album would it release?

          • I don’t know.. Orange Bloody Orange? Headless Orange? Master of Juices? Black Orange? Juice Sabbath? Never Say Orange? Orange Rules? Heaven & Hell (and Oranges?).. I give up

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

            Juice Purposes, This Juice Is Forbidden, Orangyr, The Eternal Juice, Orange Again, Seventh Orange, Live Juicing, Orange At Last, Juiceanoid, 13 Cups Of OJ and even Dejuiceanizer. There are so many possibilities!

          • KJM

            Sabotage.

          • VVorld Peace

            I like the cut of your jib.

      • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

        Hey, that was my male stripper name! Dusty Videobeam

        • Jajajajajajajajajaja.. Didn’t knew you stripped for money, mr. Clown

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            Yea Im not braggin but I was kinda like a disco Greg Brady “bad boy” type! The ladies loved it, great tips.

      • Lacertilian

        i’ll bring the vodka/tequila/rum for that OJ.

  • Justin Nowlin

    Lol you guys, Motionless in White was announced as the final headliner for New England Metal and Hardcore Festival.

  • Death

    Maybe I’ll watch this later (even though it isn’t an Ingmar Bergman movie).

    • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

      Maybe I’ll watch this later (even though it isn’t an Jean-Luc Godard movie).

      • Guacamole Jim

        Maybe I’ll watch this later (even though it isn’t a Jean-Luc Picard movie).

        • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

          <33333

        • i might get flushed for saying this, but …
          Kirk > Picard (yes just one >)

          • Guacamole Jim

            Agreed. Picard is too pompous for my liking.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Quality review man. Haven’t seen this in donkeys years, well not since I was 13 or so. Basically all I remember is the final fight and missing something good in the middle cause I had to leak the lizard. Remember thinking it was pretty great though. Your review makes me want to revisit it, which is what I reckon the really good reviews do. I’d probably like it even more nowadays. Would almost certainly like it more than most of the horror I used to really dig on back in those times. Funny how we change…

  • Further Down the Metal Hole

    Ravenous is an awesome film. Picked it up by chance at the shop years ago and didn’t regret it one bit, totally surprised me. Also, that recurring theme/tune they use in the score is great and it fits the scenery/period so well.

  • JWG

    There aren’t nearly enough films concerning the wendigo.

    The only two I can think of are the not-good film “Wendigo” (2001), and the not-as-good-as-its-predecessors 3rd in the ‘Ginger Snaps’ series that blended the werewolf theme of the first two with the wendigo legend.

    Actually. I liked the latter a lot more than critical reception averaged out toward. It’s clearly inferior to Ginger Snaps, but it has enough going for it otherwise. Especially Hugh Dillon. I’m not generally a fan of musicians-turned-actor (or vice versa) but he’s an excellent exception.

    • i think i maybe have seen Wendigo. that should say something!

    • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

      There is an episode of Charmed about the Wendigo.

      • JWG

        If you have an American-made supernaturally-themed TV series, it’s practically an obligation to do a wendigo episode.

        See also Supernatural, Grimm, and Lost Girl. And others I’m sure…

        • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

          Yes, but do those other shows Shannen Doherty? I dont think so.

          • JWG

            A few nights ago Doherty was the ‘name’ in Celebrity Name Game, and the clue-giver could only think to say “that woman on 90210 that everyone hates”… and the guesser said “I hate her too but I don’t know her name, you should pass”. I almost died of laughter.

            It was almost as hilarious as the gay black kid in another recent episode whose response to having to get his partner to say “Deep Throat” was an obscene pantomime.

          • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

            *receives innuendos about new avatar*

          • VVorld Peace

            Doesn’t she also have a wonky eye?

          • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

            I must have a thing for wonky eyes. Now that you mention it, David Duchovney also has a wonky eye.

        • VVorld Peace

          X-files? I’m only on the 4th season, so unsure.

          • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

            What are you doing with your life, W? And, no, I dont think David Duchovney ever Wendigos.

          • VVorld Peace

            Uh, research, mostly.

          • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

            On how to best kidnap Gillian Anderson?

          • VVorld Peace

            I love a woman in shoulder pads.

          • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

            hint: she got dat wonky eye, bro. approach from that side, dressed as Mulder.

          • she still puts it down in Hannibal!

          • KJM

            Nope, no Wendigos there.

    • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

      Wendigo (2001) is a whole lot better than Wendigo (1978). Actually I have a lot of time for both, but the older one is one of those films that I wouldn’t sniff at someone calling the worst ever, even though I like it.

      • JWG

        TBH I was totally thinking of the 78 one when I typed the OP.
        When I went to Google to ensure I wasn’t just imagining that its title was just ‘Wendigo’ the only thing that came up for “Wendigo film” was the later one.
        I thought maybe I had somehow imagined its much earlier release date.

        • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

          I just remembered Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (1994) as well. It has a chilli monster attack with accompanying song and so is at least pretty awesome, although I remember it being less awesome overall than it could have been.

    • VVorld Peace

      I love the mythology around the wendigo. Ever read the Algernon Blackwood short story?

      • JWG

        I have, but if you asked me to quote from it I would probably just go look up the text again to do so. It was a while ago.

    • CT-12

      Not sure what Wendigo movie you were talking about, but there was one released in the early 2000’s that I was actually gonna do a GSTW for; I love that movie. Also, that 3rd Ginger Snaps is such a fucking abomination hahaha EDIT: didn’t see frozengoats… response

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    “Your favorite movie is The Godfather, that’s cute”
    Human Centipede, that is all.

  • Howard Dean
  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    I’ll give you some cunting Ravenous.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsfIJAg29gk

  • Renan Ribeiro
  • KJM

    Scene from an obscure classic from the late 70s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfAOL0PD22w

  • FeelTheDarkness

    Ravenous was a damn good movie. Especially after smoking hash.

    • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

      Even Michael Bay movies are good after smoking hash

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        No, they aren’t. Not even after hash.

        • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

          Fuck you, I love Michael Bay. The Transformers movies were amazing and his other works are awesome as well.

          • Lacertilian

            really?

          • –>

          • Lacertilian

            I don’t think that’s Billy West, so now I have no idea, who dat?

          • Lacertilian

            Ahhh, I have seen him once when @midnight were taking the piss out of his over the top stage antics at conferences.

          • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

            JJD is smoking hash.

          • Lacertilian

            Hash don’t do that.
            Even drinking methanol still leaves you with hearing and some sense of smell.

          • Nope, not even red haired kush will make you enjoy Michael Bay.

          • Further Down the Metal Hole

            I enjoyed the first 3 (haven’t seen 4), but amazing is taking it a bit far, no?

            Still undecided whether I should give Turtles a try or just stay away in case it destroys my childhood memories of the first two films.

          • T4 is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. and they learn that the Transformers are made of a metal that a scientist dubs “transformium”.
            …. there i saved you time and and money

          • Further Down the Metal Hole

            Wow, that sounded…utterly terrible. Glad I passed.

          • Lacertilian

            I’m going down the latter route and just rewatched TMNT 1-3 with copious amounts of bakage, my wife had never seen them so that also was a bonus justification.

          • how do they hold up whilst being an adult?

          • Lacertilian

            I liked it but I think nostalgia may have swept me away.
            Shredder was pretty fucking metal though, I’ll give him that.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Mostly boring action. Terribly bad acting by a majority of actors(badly scripted characters, hollow dialogue) Emphasis on explosions/running from explosions or airborne cars over story, character depth and acting. A few entertaining movies, but nothing worth another go. Ergo – no good movies.

          • interrogation room. STAT

    • never done hash. weed fvcks with me, almost imploded after trying my first gravity bong.

      • FeelTheDarkness

        Hahahaha!
        Gravity bongs will do that to ya.

  • KJM

    “You keep the medal, I’ll take this book.”
    “Which book?”
    “‘I Remember Mama’ by Oedipus Rex.”

  • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

    I need to see this movie now JJMN!! Very cool! PS My uncle Ronnie suffered from the “Curse of the Winnebego”

  • KJM

    “Let’s go to the beach.”

    “It’s night, and it’s raining.”

    “I see you’re determined to start an argument.”

  • JamesGrimm

    one of my favorite films.

  • BLVKKBEVRD’S VNHEVLTHY LVST

    I gave dat Cretin album another spin and decided I liked it more than when I first heard it.

  • CT-12

    Fuck yeah Jimmy, sounds like a killer movie, will have to check it out! Good write up man!

  • Janitor Jim Dvggan’s Spooky To

    I love this article but I have one question: What is Captain D’s?

    • I’m guessing he’s talking about the seafood place. It’s like Long John Silver’s, but with tables. It’s Red Lobster for the culinary handicapped and desperately poor.

  • Virgil the Ghost Poet

    Nice job Jimmy. I remember that I liked the movie. I will have to watch it again.

  • Lacertilian

    And so begins the Jimmy McNulty Film Club.
    Going to watch this tonight @James_Jimmy_McNulty:disqus

    • did you watch it yet, Australian McNulty?

      • Lacertilian

        Tonight Jimmy mah bwoy, been at a cousin’s wedding. They’re super religious so I had to bite my tongue and not laugh at the preposterous proceedings.

  • Pffffffffttttttt, if you want gory and depraved (very very NSFW):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akoXCHuUbIg

  • Lacertilian

    Jimmy “(⌐■_■)” McNulty that Boyd’s Journey track reminded me of The Braying Mule by the legendary Ennio Morricone.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAWpIQATcRE

  • robert carlyle is one of the great actors OF ALL TIME