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The Cranky Critic® Reviews

Ravenous

Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle,Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones Screenplay by Ted Griffin
Directed by Antonia Bird
website: http://www.foxmovies.com/ravenous/

IN SHORT: Gruesome, with an occasional dash of very funny. [Rated R ]

All of you folks who love slice 'n' dice, chop off a limb scare flicks should head on out to Ravenous, to see what truly gruesome moviemaking is all about.

At minimum, Ravenous sets new standards for going where few movies have thematically gone before, into a world where Cannibalism is commonplace. Yeah, it turns my stomach too, but it allows screenwriter Ted Griffin to chow down and upchuck some very sick and very, very funny cannibal jokes.

Cranky apologizes for that last sentence, but it's a requirement of Chapter VII, Section 6, paragraph (b) of the incredibly confidential Film Critics handbook. That 'graph requires the use of parody when a film is really well made (ie. Film Students will rave) but whose net result is an utterly disgusted paying audience. Everything Cranky wrote in that first sentence holds true; about why I don't like slice 'n' dice and also about why I can savor bits and pieces ... sorry ... scraps ... damn ... elements of this flick.

Set in Northern California, 1847, Ravenous is the story of military coward, Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) who played dead during a Mexican-American battle and, after tasting the blood of other corpses piled above him, overcame the enemy and single-handedly captured their position. The tasting of the blood is just a fuse attached to the trigger of an Indian legend called Weendigo, in which a warrior is infused with the spirit and power of an enemy whose flesh he eats. He also gets a remarkable healing factor (which, like alternate spelling Wendigo, is probably trademarked by Marvel Comics, who played with this sort of character years ago).

Acclaimed a hero and banished to the very isolated Fort Spencer, Boyd settle in to a life filled with colorful Army dregs -- eternally drunk Doctor Knox (Stephen Spinella); a non-preachy fundamentalist (Jeremy Davies); a cook (David Arquette) who prefers peyote and the usual nutcase of a soldier (Neal McDonough). The Commanding Officer (Jeffrey Jones) takes it all in stride, preferring to wait out the winter with a pile of old books.

Into the camp comes a Scotsman named Calhoun (Robert Carlyle), who tells a tale of being lost in the mountains for three months without food - "I didn't say I had nothing to eat" - and confesses to an act of cannibalism. Not his fault, y'see, but there are survivors and one very hungry ex-soldier still out there. After an Indian woman at camp tells Boyd about Weendigo, the troops set out on a rescue mission. All too late they discover that the folks that need rescue are themselves. Which is more than I should tell you.

Antonia Bird's direction and Anthony B. Richmond's spectacular cinematography creates a wilderness where one false step can, if not kill you, make you life a bloody mess. Guns are used, but knives are the preferred weapon and this flick does not hold back on the unpleasantness of things like disembowelment and fantasies of coeur tartare. We haven't even gotten to the funny stuff yet, in which survivor Boyd must face down the spirit of Weendigo that becomes his new commanding officer (again, Robert Carlyle).

The positives: the acting is across the board top notch, with terrific characterizations by Carlyle and Jeremy Davies as the meek li'l religious guy. The story makes absolute sense; yeah, the Weendigo is a bit of a stretch but it makes everything work and the sick humor is very funny. Ravenous will not bore you, though it may turn your stomach and have you wondering how things like this get made.

Cranky once worked on a film that had critics spewing that last remark. The answer is that they get made 'cuz someone gets convinced that a story is solid. A gripping tale that can be economically made and sold. Ravenous is all that. It's also just too damned gruesome for my taste. I can't even project how the folk who like special effects violence will react when this film's chop chop is made to look as close to the real thing as possible. It is truly gruesome. You are warned.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Ravenous, he would have paid...

$3.00

That's rental/ film students only level and Ravenous falls into that second category for me. It is one grim story. One which needs to afford you the ability to stop tape, get up and walk away if it becomes too much.

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995-2008 by, Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, T their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy AwardT(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995  -  2013 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.