When we are hungry...I mean really hungry we can go to some pretty extreme limits as the drive to survive. "Ravenous" is a pretty sly social commentary on the desire for power and the drive to live forever wrapped up inside a slick horror cannibal story.
Set during the Mexican-American War, "Ravenous" is the story of a group of American soldiers that are stationed in a remote outpost in the Sierras and are joined by a new recruit Capt John Boyd (Guy Pearce) as they have men missing in the midst of a terrible blizzard when a mysterious man emerges from the storm (Robert Carlyle) who seems a little on edge as he leads the remaining soldiers to where the surviving members of his party are hiding. What at first seems like a rescue mission, actual becomes a lot more sinister as the brutal elements of the Sierra Nevada wilderness got more extreme than any of them anticipated.
Hard to believe that it has been 15 years, but "Ravenous" holds up surprisingly well as a chilling commentary on the overwhelming thirst for power by man along with a look at the blind gluttony of modern culture wrapped up in the trappings of a pretty solid horror flick.
The late and grossly underrated Antonia Bird is probably not the first person that anyone would look at when plotting out a horror movie, but with that being said bring a more conscience tone that focuses on narrative rather than flat out gore was just what the doctor ordered on this pass as it is simply a great story that plays almost more like a tragic farce rather than a straight up horror movie. Shooting in the mountains in Slovakia, Bird creates a palpable sense of isolation and manages to keep the out and out gore to the bare but always necessary minimum with this ragtag group of military men who have been sent to the last outpost that truly no one EVER wants to get sent to while the script by writer Ted Griffin which was his very first outing as a screenwriter manages to crackle with not only a sense of self effacing wit and vibrancy but it got us where we needed to go as this story never ever dragged as we dealt with our hero, the consequences of his actions and the rag tag group of soldiers that he has been assigned to at the edge of nowhere as these deep dark seeded emotions that he is grasping with that are unexpectedly coming to light. The ensemble sells the material well as the casting is as ragtag as the characters that they are portraying.
Landing between "L.A. Confidential" and "Memento" in the career arc of star Guy Pearce, he turns in some solid work as Capt John Boyd, the inadvertent hero left for dead who stumbled into being a hero as well as a particularly bad habit that is causing nightmares, not only because he knows how wrong it was, but because he actually liked it as well. On the other side of the coin as Col. Ives, Robert Carlyle was his usual scene chewing self as a villain who had the appropriate set of grandeur to him as his cannibalistic ways played into the metaphor of the American's simply raping and pillaging the country taking what they wanted, simply because it could and it fed their ego was an interesting way to play it as we don't often see geo political themes get roped into a horror film, but it does quite well. David Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Jeremy Davies, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella & Neal McDonough all serve their purpose as it all unfolds in a timely an efficient manner.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are reasonably clean but unremarkable and the special features include three separate feature length commentary tracks, deleted scenes with commentary from Antonia Bird, the theatrical trailer, TV spots and two still galleries.
Less flat out horror and something bordering more on social satire, it makes sense that "Ravenous" bombed at the theatres 15 years ago, as it was simply ahead of its time and much easier to appreciate with the passage of time as a film that bravely blurred the boundary lines by having a clear cut statement to make while still drenching in the appropriate amounts of blood for all to enjoy.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Ravenous" is now available on Blu-Ray from all major retailers.