Movie Review By Erik Petersen
Whatever you do, and I cannot stress this enough, do not, I repeat do not go out to eat before you see "Ravenous", the latest film from director Antonia Bird. In what may be the cinematic antithesis of the wonderful film "Big Night", "Ravenous", a myth about the alleged powers of cannibalism, offers a completely different type of culinary experience.
Bird, who directed the controversial film "Priest", was brought in mid-stream on this film and it shows. The result is an original but very uneven black comedy inspired by the true story of the disaster at Donner Pass where a group of snowbound immigrants were forced to resort to cannibalism in order to survive.
The film opens with Captain John Boyd, played by Guy Pearce the straight edged detective from "L.A. Confidential", sent to a desolate outpost in the Sierras where he joins a patchwork group of soldiers. In addition to Pearce the excellent cast features Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, David Arquette and Jeffery Jones.
When I wasn't totally revolted by the daily menu of human helper, I was often puzzled. Some of the best horror films successfully use comedy to defuse the tension then hit us again when we're feeling most vulnerable. Here though the film has a schizophrenic personality, at times it plays like a genuine over the top black comedy, an allegory about the appetite of a young America as we expanded across the United States. At other times it's a straight-on horror film and is frequently quite frightening.
Though uneven there are some very powerful segments. The film's best moments come when the group of soldiers trek to an abandon cave in search of survivors. Here Carlyle's performance as the tortured Colqhoun slowly builds to a terrifying crescendo as he ratchets up the tension, inch by inch. Heís so unnerving that itís almost unbearable to watch. I was so scared I began to suck my thumb and no, it didn't taste good!
Although the script is clever and the performances are good, especially Carlyleís, the subject matter is so grotesque it truly churned my stomach and I have a pretty high tolerance for this kind of stuff. After all I could handle back to back episodes of "Whoís the Boss."
"Ravenous" is an original, sometimes funny, sometimes scary movie that is muy, muy grosso. Consider yourself warned.
I'm Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 1999 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 3/31/99
"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index
"Movie Magazine International" Home Page