I’m one of the many fools that didn’t give “Ravenous” a chance when it premiered in 1999. In fact I openly avoided it for many years, convinced it was just a splatter film and nothing more. True, while it is a classic cannibal movie and survival film, “Ravenous” is so much more. It’s a layered and very unique satire on America’s consumption of the world, and how that becomes very much a practice for one general who is convinced that consuming his fellow man will give him power to conquer the world and also select who is fit to survive in his world.
“Ravenous” seems proud of the notion that it’s a coal black comedy that centers on a group of delirious and cowardly men, all of whom have to face one another or be consumed. Guy Pearce gives a rousing performance as Second Lieutenant Boyd, a young decorated lieutenant who is sent to exile by his commanding officer, after confessing cowardice on the battlefield. Out of fear, he played dead, allowing his unit to be slaughtered, and is only allowed to live due to his take infiltration of the rival army’s camp after being mistaken for a corpse. Boyd is sent to Fort Spencer with other odd balls from his army, and is confronted with the enigmatic Colqhoun. Part of a settlers mission, Colqhoun and his group were lost in the wilderness, prompting him and his fellow travelers to resort to cannibalism.
After consuming the dead, the group became ravenous, and Colqhoun was able to escape. In an effort to help the surviving members of the group, Boyd and the group find the cave and discover Colqhoun is actually a rabid cannibal intent on devouring his saviors. Robert Carlyle gives a mesmerizing turn as the cunning and clever Colonel Ives, who manages to act under the guise of a commanding officer, all the while firm in his belief that cannibalism is the only way to live in the world. Boyd is forced to compensate for his past cowardice by trying to stop Ives before he eliminates his comrades in camp, setting forth a brutal cat and mouse game that’s often tense and gruesome.
Carlyle really has fun in the skin of this vicious antagonist who insists cannibalism is a miracle cure for man’s weaknesses, and will stop at nothing to eat anyone in sight. This doubles for his own form of conquering the country, as he begins setting up a small cannibal commune that will feed his urges, as well as dominate the country. Only through Boyd’s self sacrifice can he end the cycle of cannibalism. Writer Ted Griffin spins a very clever and utterly dark metaphor for America’s domination of the land, and comments on how the taste for conquering and devouring our enemies is a never ending cycle that will spell doom in the long run. Especially when there’s no one left and we begin turning on one another for sustenance and vitality.
Scream Factory gives “Ravenous” a really good treatment for fans of the underrated horror comedy, offering another of their reversible covers for the Blu-Ray. There’s a great audio commentary with director Antonia Bird, and Composer Damon Albarn, both of whom discuss the perils of working in the wilderness, and how Albarn concocted his very odd but haunting score. There’s a second commentary with Screenwriter Ted Griffin and co-star Jeffrey Jones, a somewhat lackluster offering with occasional dead air and nothing really interesting mined.
There’s a third audio commentary with co-star Robert Carlyle, a commentary even more lackluster, which is a shame considering Carlyle can be incredibly enthusiastic when he wants to be. There’s a deleted scene reel with optional commentary by director Antonia Bird, and an interview with Jeffrey Jones, who discusses the subtext of the film and the narrative, as well as his love for history. Finally, there’s the theatrical trailer, a TV spot, and the photo gallery which looks at the costume and production designs.