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Overall Rating
3.76

Awesome: 31.82%
Worth A Look38.64%
Average: 11.36%
Pretty Bad: 10.23%
Total Crap: 7.95%

7 reviews, 46 user ratings


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Ravenous
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by John Linton Roberson

"Half A Good Movie Is Better Than None."
3 stars

Some of the funniest Monty Python sketches I have ever seen revolved around cannibalism. I myself have used it in my work whenever a cheap laugh was called for. Is it the inherent absurdity of the notion that makes us laugh, or does it horrify us to a point where we must consider it absurd to bear it?

I suppose one shouldn't find it so laughable. It's not as though it doesn't occur in real life. There's, of course, the better-known gruesomeness of Jeffrey Dahmer and the Donner Party(the most identifiable touchstone, by the way, for this film), but it's growing into the third-worst social problem in impoverished rural Russia right now(after alcoholism and the Mafia), and twice before--during the civil war after the Revolution and after, in the Stalin-induced famine; in Howard Zinn's "People's History of the U.S.", numerous instances of European immigrants from the earliest days of the colonies running out of food and turning to one another on the long and usually poorly-accomodated voyages over.

But in the case of this film, I'm afraid it's very funny. I'm not sure if Antonia Bird meant to prepare me for a black comedy by having the star vomit during the credits, but from that point onward I was looking at it through glasses colored camp, and that may be all that saved it here. That and the incredible performances by Robert Carlyle and Jeffrey Jones, who in particular I find one of the most underrated character actors ever.

Essentially: Guy Pearce plays a Mexican War veteran who, after accidentally finding himself in the Mexican's camp while trying to hide, kills them all, and though his superiors understand he's a coward, and he admits as much, they promote him for appearances; he did, after all, kill a hell of a lot of the enemy.

Let's stop right there a moment: does that not sound a hell of a lot like the conclusion of L.A CONFIDENTIAL? Exactly why does Guy Pearce keep playing these kind of roles(just like: why does Ashley Judd play nothing but defiant victims)? Actually, that's not as important as you might think; indeed, this character, as weak and vacillating as Ed Exley was strong and unyielding, seems more a MAD Magazine parody of the earlier part than anything else. Which, for anyone who found Exley's willingness to use corruption to his own ends at the end of the film a sudden jerk out of character, is at least interesting. For about five minutes. Then he becomes as one-note melancholic for the entire rest of the film as Brad Pitt in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.

Turning back to the plot, he gets sent out where he can't embarrass the army--a shithole camp in the middle of frozen nowhere out west, Fort Spencer, with a bunch of men there for no reason with nothing to do. In the hands of a Werner Herzog, this material might be more interesting(it already was, in sIGNS OF LIFE); in Bird's hands it's, well, a bit of a mess. He's introduced to the others in a montage that suggests much more on the cutting room floor that might have--excuse the term--fleshed these characters out enough that we'd care rather than cheer when the monster descends upon them. Not even David Arquette, as the hallucinogen-glutton cook Cleves, is interesting--he's onscreen too little even to be amusing.

A stranger is found near the camp, and when Robert Carlyle wakes up you wish everyone else would just shut up. He claims to be an escapee of a particularly nasty Donner Party situation, and coaxes them out to the site of the horror to save those he claims are left, but of course attacks and kills most of them once out there. He of course, was the one who ate all the rest of his fellow travellers, and is infected with what the Indian scout calls the Wendigo, an odd myth for a plains Indian to be familiar with, since it's a myth of the Canadian tribes. The myth says that if a man eats his enemy he grows stronger(and also possesses superhuman endurance and heals fast), but also becomes addicted and hungry for more.

This moment, by the way, is one of the few really suspenseful moments in the film. When he becomes dangerous--and he's fiercely so, making oddly short work of most of the search party in about ten minutes--Carlyle suddenly becomes very weirdly and incoherently mad, almost euphoric. Whether the filmmakers knew this or not, this is indeed what happens to cannibals--it causes encephalitis, which produces a delirium like euphoria in its earliest stages, as syphilis does. That's how mad cow disease happened--cows were fed one another.

Guy Pearce gets away, only to find Carlyle in charge of the fort--by the consent of the ones who remained behind from the search--and himself suspected of the murder of the search party.

Now wait just one minute here. Everyone in the camp got a good look at Robert Carlyle when he appeared. SOME went on the search. You're telling me not a single one of those remaining recognizes the only new person besides Pearce they'd seen in months--and someone with a Scottish accent to boot--just because he's trimmed some of his facial hair and is wearing
a uniform?

Okay, at this point the movie loses all coherency, and the less said the better; it starts taking itself far too seriously after this.

So what do I think? I'm glad I saw it on video. Many funny Grand Guignol moments; guaranteed to be a cult film. About half of a good Roger Corman film, basically. Too bad there are no more drive-ins.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1209&reviewer=151
originally posted: 11/05/99 17:59:52
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell grisly tongue & cheek fun 4 stars
3/22/13 KayBeQueenBee It was strange and different, but I liked it. 4 stars
10/01/10 PAUL SHORTT INTELLIGENT BUT GRISLY 2 stars
12/06/08 Shaun Wallner Great Film! 4 stars
6/20/08 Anaxis Saw this when it was released, and I rated it then as destined to be an immortal cult film, 5 stars
6/03/08 mr.mike Constantly threatens to go over the top...yet never does 4 stars
1/03/07 William Goss Screwy, but watchable period cannibal thriller. 3 stars
2/25/06 Robert More misses than hits, but enough genuinely bizarre moments to be at least memorable. 3 stars
10/09/05 K. Sear Fantastic tongue-in-cheek film-making 5 stars
9/08/05 tatum Tasty! 4 stars
8/12/05 ES Terrible editing, watch when Carlyle trips on a snow patch and reveals its a sheet 2 stars
3/24/05 erebus45 This is the most underrated movie ever.!! Fantastic!!! 5 stars
12/24/04 Anne-Marie A keeper. Scenery, music, plot, gore all perfect 5 stars
5/12/04 Michael Made me wont to be a cannibal 4 stars
4/24/03 Mister Killjoy Best cavalry-cannibal-vampire-immortal-manifest-destiny movie. Besides "The Bodyguard." 5 stars
3/27/03 Jen It was gross & creepy, but i liked it still. 4 stars
1/23/03 The Grinch Pretty good...fairly original...unpredictable...oddball soundtrack, grade A B movie (USDA) 4 stars
1/09/03 Lex brilliant! A+ cast, music, most intelligent gore flick ever! 5 stars
11/16/02 .Choadushouse. holy sh*t! I loved this movie! great performances by all and great gore! eerie! 5 stars
12/04/01 sphen why is everyone turned off by it?! I think its a very well written movie.. great soundtrack 5 stars
10/04/01 Liam Markus This is a bloody awsome film 5 stars
6/03/01 DJ Smurf Creepy as hell. 5 stars
5/12/01 ExorciseTheDemons Micheal Hyman's score definatley helps an already good movie. 5 stars
4/16/01 LiL Anyone hungry? 4 stars
12/02/00 Phil Bon Apetite! 5 stars
11/07/00 Charles Heppenstall Great film. Buried on theatrical release in England. 4 stars
9/30/00 Wes Made me hungry in the theater, first dvd i bought, a great movie 5 stars
9/21/00 Terrie Smith Not a bad film at all; Robert Carlyle walks away with it. Great cinematography. 4 stars
7/12/00 Eric Much better than I expected & want to see it again! 5 stars
12/08/99 James Keough Interesting at first. After seeing it three times in a row, I'm convinced it's one to own. 5 stars
11/05/99 John Linton Roberson Half a good film is better than none 3 stars
10/08/99 Elgyn6655321 Very original and cool movie, with a great cast and weird music. 5 stars
9/16/99 Matthew Bartley Mmm,tasty. Demented fun 4 stars
7/04/99 Sketch Turner Amazing movie 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg This film is amazingly good. I was surprised that NOBODY was in the theater with us. 5 stars
6/25/99 perry mahaney kick ass movie destined for immortallity 5 stars
5/02/99 little jerry Treads a very fine line between the strangely interesting & a cult film by design. 4 stars
4/21/99 Ah Dooey Get me a burger now! 4 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson Great actors, bad movie, not the first time, not the last. 2 stars
4/08/99 Big Jimmy for some reason I found myself craving a steak after watching this movie 4 stars
4/08/99 Brian M pass me another leg please 4 stars
4/01/99 f*r*o*s*t*y #1 (out of three) on my "Worst movies of all time." roster. 1 stars
4/01/99 Thanatos The character interaction in this movie was cool...and the eating people thing, too 5 stars
3/28/99 jvt A good premise not always well executed 3 stars
3/26/99 jenny this movie was so wonderful - fast paced, suspenseful, and the music was really strange :) 5 stars
3/12/99 Orgazmo The BEST FILM OF A DECADE, Cannibals are back, thank god! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Mar-1999 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Apr-1999 (MA)


Directed by
  Antonia Bird

Written by
  Ted Griffin

Cast
  Guy Pearce
  Robert Carlyle
  David Arquette
  Jeffrey Jones
  John Spencer
  Jeremy Davies



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