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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.82%
Worth A Look38.64%
Just Average: 11.36%
Pretty Crappy: 10.23%
Sucks: 7.95%

7 reviews, 46 user ratings

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by Andrew Howe

"A triumph over reason."
2 stars

Read any treatise on the current state of play in Hollywood, and it's a sure bet it will mention that the studios are becoming excessively cautious about the projects they green-light. Labouring under the looming spectre of Heaven's Gate, the studio execs don't want to hear about your offbeat tale of love and loss amongst the Justified Ancients of Mumu. They want formula, they want stars, they want *high concept*, and most of all they want to be lulled to sleep by the satisfying ring of cash registers in cinemas across the land.

Now imagine me strolling into the office of Twentieth Century Fox's head honcho. I take a seat, place my hands upon a desk the size of a billiard table, and deliver the following pitch:

"The year's 1847, the Mexican-American War, an era which positively radiates commercial appeal. There's no romance - in fact, there's nary a female character to be found - but we've got something better. Cannibalism. Just roll that word around on your tongue for awhile. There's this guy, see, played by Robert Carlyle from The Full Monty, who shows up at an isolated army outpost with a story about how his travelling companions decided to eat each other when they got snowed in during a trip across the mountains. The hero is a monumental coward, more of an anti-hero really, but Guy Pearce from L.A. Confidential has signed on the dotted line. He sets out with a group of soldiers to check out Carlyle's claim, and before long we realise that things may not be quite as they seem. From there it heads full steam into a merry tale of blood, guts and unusual eating habits. All I need is a few million bucks and you can have this snappy little tale ready to go for a summer release. How's that grab ya?"

Perhaps you understand why I am at a loss to explain how this movie ever got made. Maybe the head of the studio lost a bet, maybe everybody just took leave of their senses at approximately the same time. Whatever the reason, Ravenous did indeed receive the green-light, and the result is a film so uncommercial that it practically defies description.

It only takes about thirty seconds for it to become patently obvious that we are not supposed to take this film seriously (any film which sees fit to juxtapose Nietzsche's classic "fights with monsters" quote with "Eat me" is obviously not dealing from a full deck). However, this doesn't stop the film's creators from doling out large doses of graphic violence - there's knifings galore, not to mention the sight of corpses picked clean to the bone and more blood than your average vampire flick. All of this plays out to a rather jaunty soundtrack, and in the end I was put in mind of Alex Cox's Walker, another film which attempted to walk the line between drama and parody. Cox was more successful, however, not the least because he had a point to make (and Ed Harris, an asset to any film). I can't even begin to guess what the point of Ravenous might be - it's too violent to be a comedy (even a black one), and too weird to be a genuine horror film. What it is, in fact, is a mess, but a couple of factors conspire to raise the affair to the requisite heights of improbability.

Firstly, there's the fact that the film features some perfectly acceptable cinematography. The camera always loves snow-capped mountains and frigid streams, and so we are treated to a bunch of scenes which would not be out of place on the Discovery Channel. If you can ignore the insanity going on the foreground, you could almost be watching a beautifully-photographed nature documentary.

What is even more incomprehensible is that the actors actually turn in fine performances. Everybody takes the whole thing very seriously, and so it is that we are treated to eminently watchable turns by the likes of Carlyle, Pearce and Jeffrey Jones as they indulge in philosophical discussions, chow down on bowls of human stew and accomplish the Herculean feat of distracting the viewer from the silliness of the plot. Not since James Woods made a career out of providing premeditated box-office flops with above-average performances has a major actor exhibited such an inexplicable dedication to their art (or in this case, several major actors).

And yet, somehow, the film exudes a strange appeal. Maybe it's the sight of fine actors performing outlandish deeds, maybe it's the film's jet-black sense of humour, maybe it's the result of alcohol-induced brain damage - whatever it is, I find that I cannot totally discount this effort. When the closing credits roll you will most likely find your mouth hanging open in disbelief, unable to comprehend how anybody involved with the film could ever have believed that it would amount to anything more than a monumental joke at the viewer's expense. But I would suggest that it is this very chutzpah, this unshakeable sense of self-belief, which ensures the film cannot be classed as a total failure. You may walk away shaking your head, but you can't escape the feeling that you've seen something, and if you can't quite work out what it was at least it's better than watching a film which slavishly adheres to a formula in an attempt to separate us from our hard-earned cash.

This is not a good film, but then it's not entirely undeserving of our attention either. It may be so far in the left-field that you'll need a telescope to catch sight of it, but if you take it with a truckload of salt you may just find something of merit. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1209&reviewer=193
originally posted: 03/10/00 00:12:17
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell grisly tongue & cheek fun 4 stars
3/21/13 KayBeQueenBee It was strange and different, but I liked it. 4 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Great Film! 4 stars
6/19/08 Anaxis Saw this when it was released, and I rated it then as destined to be an immortal cult film, 5 stars
6/02/08 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
2/24/06 Robert More misses than hits, but enough genuinely bizarre moments to be at least memorable. 3 stars
10/08/05 K. Sear Fantastic tongue-in-cheek film-making 5 stars
9/08/05 tatum Tasty! 4 stars
8/11/05 ES Terrible editing, watch when Carlyle trips on a snow patch and reveals its a sheet 2 stars
3/23/05 erebus45 This is the most underrated movie ever.!! Fantastic!!! 5 stars
12/23/04 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
4/23/03 Mister Killjoy Best cavalry-cannibal-vampire-immortal-manifest-destiny movie. Besides "The Bodyguard." 5 stars
3/26/03 Jen It was gross & creepy, but i liked it still. 4 stars
1/22/03 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
11/15/02 .Choadushouse. holy sh*t! I loved this movie! great performances by all and great gore! eerie! 5 stars
12/03/01 sphen why is everyone turned off by it?! I think its a very well written movie.. great soundtrack 5 stars
10/03/01 Liam Markus This is a bloody awsome film 5 stars
6/02/01 DJ Smurf Creepy as hell. 5 stars
5/11/01 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
11/06/00 Charles Heppenstall Great film. Buried on theatrical release in England. 4 stars
9/29/00 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
7/11/00 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
7/03/99 J-Dogg This film is amazingly good. I was surprised that NOBODY was in the theater with us. 5 stars
6/24/99 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
4/20/99 Ah Dooey Get me a burger now! 4 stars
4/14/99 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
4/07/99 Brian M pass me another leg please 4 stars
3/31/99 f*r*o*s*t*y #1 (out of three) on my "Worst movies of all time." roster. 1 stars
3/31/99 Thanatos The character interaction in this movie was cool...and the eating people thing, too 5 stars
3/27/99 jvt A good premise not always well executed 3 stars
3/25/99 jenny this movie was so wonderful - fast paced, suspenseful, and the music was really strange :) 5 stars
3/11/99 Orgazmo The BEST FILM OF A DECADE, Cannibals are back, thank god! 5 stars
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  19-Mar-1999 (R)


  22-Apr-1999 (MA)

Directed by
  Antonia Bird

Written by
  Ted Griffin

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

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