Ravenous (1999) is a weird, little, kind of gory, kind of funny, low budget movie - just the thing for this month's movie series.
Captain John Boyd, Mexican-American War hero, is a troubled man. First, he's not really a hero: left for dead on the battlefield, he was dragged behind enemy lines and stuck in a pile of dead soldiers, their coagulating blood running into his mouth. With a surge of vigor, he climbed out and single-handedly took over a Mexican fort. His commanding general thinks he's weird, however, and sends him off into the California wilderness to be stationed at the remote Ft. Spencer, deep in the Sierra Nevadas. There are eight soldiers there - Boyd, Colonel Hart, Private Toffler the chaplain, Private Cleaves the layabout, Private Reich the psycho soldier, Captain Knox the drunkard, and a pair of Native American siblings, Martha and George. When a starving man (Colqhoun) wanders out of the wilderness, babbling about his wagon trail being stuck in the mountains and reverting to cannibalism to survive, the bored soldiers head out to see if they can rescue anyone. It's a trap, of course, and Colqhoun is the wendigo - the man imbued with strength and power from consuming other men - and he makes mincemeat of most of the rescue party. Colqhoun recognizes a kindred, cannibal spirit in Boyd, and delights in tormenting him. Boyd doesn't want to eat human flesh again because it's wrong from a moral standpoint; Colqhoun is the wily devil's advocate and, out in the middle of nowhere, it's difficult to resist him.
First of all, Ravenous has an amazing cast for a movie I never even heard of before: Guy Pearce as Boyd; Jeffrey Jones (the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) as Col. Hart; Robert Carlyle (The Fully Monty) as Colqhoun; Jeremy Davies/Toffler (Lost), David Arquette/Cleaves, Neal McDonough/Reich (most recently the blond psycho from Justified) and John Spencer (Leo McGary from West Wing) as the grumpy general. The music is incongruous, perky compared to some of what goes on on-screen. The gaping wounds and spurting blood are over the top but not particularly gruesome. Jones and Carlyle have some pretty funny lines and seem to be winking at the camera more often than not, while Pearce is his usual dour self. The movie is a little slow in spots and runs a tad long - at 100 minutes, they could probably have trimmed at least 10 minutes away - but I thought Ravenous was a surprisingly entertaining, if not awfully scary, scary movie.
Next: Land of the Dead
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