[Screen It]


(1999) (Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Extreme Extreme *Extreme Extreme
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Smoking Tense Family
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Horror: Having been sent to a remote Western outpost in the mid 1800's, an American soldier must deal with other men who turn out to be cannibals.
It's 1847 and Capt. John Boyd (GUY PEARCE) has found himself banished to a desolate military outpost in the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains of California after it's discovered that his "heroic" efforts during the Mexican-American War were really just luck after he faked his own death.

Arriving at the remote fort, Boyd meets his commanding officer, Hart (JEFFREY JONES), as well as Reich (NEAL MCDONOUGH), the most soldierlike member of the group, Knox (STEPHEN SPINELLA), the alcoholic "doctor," Toffler (JEREMY DAVIES), a deeply religious man, Cleaves (DAVID ARQUETTE) who's described as "over-medicated" from the peyote he often smokes, and their Indian scout George (Joseph Runningfox) and his sister Martha (SHEILA TOUSEY).

Not long after Boyd has settled in does another stranger, Colqhoun (ROBERT CARLYLE) stumble into their midst. Disoriented and half-starved, he recounts a tale of traveling with a group of settlers who became snowbound in a cave. With the week's passing and having run out of food, some members of the group resorted to consuming their dead and then killing for even more.

Since Colqhoun left with other members there still alive, Hart orders that they set off on a rescue mission. Aware of an old Indian myth called Weendigo, which states that a man who eats the flesh of another steals that person's strength and then develops an insatiable craving for more human flesh, the group finds themselves attacked by a near superhuman cannibal. From that point on, Boyd must not only deal with that, but also the fact that the cannibal wishes either to consume him or make him part of his fold.

If they're strongly into horror films, perhaps, but such a tale, with less than box office stars and set in the old West might not draw as many as 20th Century Fox hopes.
For considerable gore and strong violence.
  • GUY PEARCE plays a soldier sent to a remote outpost due to his cowardice during war. Once there, he must contend with a superhuman cannibal.
  • ROBERT CARLYLE plays that cannibal who has an unsatiated appetite for flesh and wishes to bring others into his fold.
  • JEFFREY JONES plays the outpost's laid-back commander who finds himself in an unenviable position.
  • NEAL MCDONOUGH plays the gung-ho soldier of the group.
  • STEPHEN SPINELLA plays the older, alcoholic "doctor."
  • JEREMY DAVIES plays a young and deeply religious man.
  • DAVID ARQUETTE plays another young soldier who's best known for being "high" from the peyote he often smokes.


    OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
    Much like the taboo subject of incest, cannibalism is one of those subjects that gives many people the willies. From the legends of such people in the jungles of the Amazon to the story of the Donner party who resorted to eating one another to survive after getting stuck in the mountains, and from the true life account of the rugby team forced to do the same after being stranded in the Andes during the 1970's to the horrific news stories about Jeffrey Dahmer, such tales often evoke nauseated reaction and philosophical debates about the morality of such actions (when stranded with no food and no alternatives).

    Of course Hollywood realizes the potential of that subject matter, and beyond a few "serious" attempts at telling such stories (such as 1993's "Alive" about that ill-fated rugby team), has used it for thrills, chills, and occasional goofy laughs. From tremendous films like "The Silence of the Lambs" to little known, little seen atrocities with great titles such as "Microwave Massacre" and "Cannibal Hookers," filmmakers realize that cannibalism is a subject best not covered realistically.

    All of which leads us to "Ravenous," the latest such film that hopes audiences will be hungry for an offbeat recipe of people eating other people. Something of an eclectic combination of elements from nearly any vampire movie, as well as "Night of the Living Dead," "Sweeney Todd" and even "Dances With Wolves," the film desperately wants to be both scary and funny.

    Unlike the original "An American Werewolf in London," however, which managed to pull off both, this film is not even remotely scary (beyond the overall notion of cannibalism and the resulting carnage and gore), is barely suspenseful, and clearly isn't as outrageously fun or campy enough to justify spending one's hard-earned dollars on its less than savory or satisfactory story. After all, if a film is going to make a comedy of sorts about cannibalism, it needs to really push the envelope.

    Not that it doesn't start out promisingly, and it doesn't take long for one to realize right away that the film doesn't intend to take itself seriously. As such, after an appropriate quote from Nietzsche stating "He that fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster" plays on the screen, it's followed by the decidedly more flippant -- and anonymously quoted saying, "Eat me."

    The casting also shows signs of life with the likes of Jeffrey Jones ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Beetlejuice"), David Arquette (the "Scream" movies), and Jeremy Davies ("Saving Private Ryan," "The Locusts" and the actor who should have been Norman Bates in the "Psycho" remake) being cast in various parts and showing potential for some fun, offbeat material. Unfortunately, they're not allowed to appropriately strut their stuff and thus become nothing more than just fodder for the typical horror film meat grinder that this film turns into.

    Director Antonia Bird ("Mad Love," "Priest"), who works from a script by first-timer Ted Griffin, desperately tries to balance the comedy with the horror, but neither is strong enough to carry the picture. While the film has an inherent campiness, Bird never pushes it far enough, and thus only generates a few funny moments, most of which come too late in the proceedings.

    The horror element is simply a cannibalistic spin on the standard vampire story where the monster gets stronger, yet hungrier with each killing, although he spares a few victims to become fellow cannibals since, as another character states, "It's lonely being a cannibal. It's tough making friends."

    As such, and beyond the overall people eating people concept, the "scary" parts seem tired and cliched and certainly not frightening. To make matters worse, what little spooky potential that's present early in the film quickly evaporates as the picture turns into yet another run-of-the-mill, but brutal, blood and gore extravaganza.

    It doesn't help that the lead and supporting characters are all extremely one-dimensional, thus ensuring that we don't sympathize with them nor care about their plight. Guy Pearce, who made quite an impression in "L.A. Confidential" (and also appeared in "The Adventures of Priscilla," Queen of the Desert"), doesn't get the same chance here. Playing a timid and near withdrawn character, the audience never really likes nor cares about him nor the unenviable predicament in which he finds himself.

    Robert Carlyle ("The Full Monty," "Trainspotting"), on the other hand, gets to fully ham it up in a performance that constantly reminded me of the characters commonly played by Gary Oldman. As such, his character is interesting, but like the film, doesn't go far enough in being campy -- as that seems to be the intention -- to really make the role work and be fun to watch.

    With an odd score by Michael Nyman that tries to heighten the camp quality, but often plays at wrong times during the movie (such as during chase scenes where the effect is thus destroyed), flat acting and a general plot line that's too similar to most every vampire flick ever made, the film never manages to achieve either of its two goals. Neither scary nor outrageously fun enough to please afficionados of either camp, the film's title will most likely appropriately describe its less than satiated box office results. We give "Ravenous," a film that has some potential but ultimately and quickly falls apart, a 2 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated horror flick. Violence, Guns/Weapons, Blood/Gore and Bad Attitudes all get extreme ratings due to many people being killed (by various means) with plenty of blood and gore to go around. That, and the overall concept of cannibalism will probably turn the stomachs of those with low tolerance levels for such material.

    While most of the film is played to be somewhat campy in nature, younger or easily frightened viewers may find many of the scenes to be unsettling, suspenseful or downright scary. Other than that, one character is an alcoholic and we see him and others drinking, while another character smokes peyote and is later seen rather giddy. Profanity is surprisingly sparse, while the sex/nudity category is limited to the brief view of a man's bare butt (in a nonsexual setting).

    Beyond that, the remaining categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable content. Due to the graphic nature of what's present, however, you may want to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness.

  • People have wine at an awards ceremony.
  • We see that Knox is an alcoholic and many scenes show him drinking, drunk, or passed out drunk.
  • We hear Cleaves described as "over-medicated," see a shot of him and another man smoking what's presumably peyote from a pipe, and later see him goofily laughing from it.
  • Some men at the station have wine with dinner.
  • As Cleaves heads off for supplies with Martha, Hart tells him, "No local weed, no peyote..."
  • Boyd and Hart drink some of Knox's bourbon.
  • While on their way to find the rest of Colqhoun's party, Hart stops the expedition and announces that it's a "bourbon break." Meanwhile and after being injured, Toffler states that he would very much like some bourbon.
  • An officer has a drink in front of him.
  • Two men have what appears to be wine with their human stew.
  • We see some flashbacks to Boyd's time in the Mexican American War and see people wounded/killed from bullets and/or explosions (with bloody results) or already dead victims who are also quite bloody.
  • We see Boyd throw up upon remembering the above and we later hear another man also throwing up.
  • In another flashback, we see Boyd amidst a pile of dead and very bloody bodies and as a result, he's very bloody himself.
  • During Colqhoun's recounting of what happened to his party, we see two brief flashbacks of men being killed with bloody results.
  • Toffler's face is a little bloody after he falls part of the way down a mountainside, and we later see some very bloody bandages on his side, as well as blood on the killer's lips (after Toffler reported that he was licking him).
  • We see several strung up skeletons inside a cave, as well as other human remains and what looks like a scalp.
  • A man who's been repeatedly stabbed is extremely bloody (and blood spills from his mouth) as is the knife that's pulled from him.
  • We see another man who's been killed and he's extremely bloody.
  • The killer has some blood running from his mouth after being injured.
  • Boyd's face is bloody after he's injured and he spots another man whose face is also very bloody (and we see repeated shots of this man and his bloody and dead, open-eyed gaze). We then see that a bone is sticking out from Boyd's leg and then hear him pushing it back in.
  • We see a man cutting into a dead man with a knife (no blood) as he prepares to eat part of him to stay alive.
  • In a hallucination, a man hits another man with a large mallet and then repeatedly stabs him with a stake, resulting in blood squirting out and flowing from the victim's mouth. We then see the assailant pull out a chunk of flesh and eat it.
  • Boyd slices the killer's hand with a knife, resulting in a bloody cut.
  • We see glimpses of dead and bloody horses.
  • Blood drips onto a person's face and when they look up, they see another dead and bloody body.
  • The killer licks blood off his finger.
  • We see a person hacking away at a dead body to get meat for food.
  • Boyd is extremely bloody (oozing out from the wound, his mouth, etc...) after being stabbed.
  • We see a stew that has human flesh in it (and see people eating it).
  • We see a man carrying a severed arm.
  • A man slits another man's throat (after being asked to do that by the victim) and we see extreme amounts of blood squirting or gushing out as well as running down a window.
  • As Boyd and the killer fight and stab each other, both are very bloody by the end of their battle.
  • Obviously the cannibals have extreme cases of both (for killing and then consuming other people).
  • In a flashback, we see that Boyd faking being dead so as to avoid conflict during the war.
  • Some viewers may take offense at the portrayal of Toffler as an overly religious man that the others only tolerate, while George, responding to Hart's question regarding whether cannibalism still exists, states that "The white man eats the body of Jesus Christ every day."
  • Depending on the viewer's age, level of maturity and tolerance for such material, the following may or may not be scary, suspenseful or unsettling. While this reviewer didn't find any of the material -- that's played as a mixture of camp and horror -- as scary, some viewers obviously might.
  • In addition, scenes listed under "Blood/Gore" and "Violence" may be unsettling or tense to some viewers, as might the overall notion of cannibals and cannibalism.
  • Colqhoun tells the story of his group getting stuck and trapped in a cave during the winter where they had to resort to eating others, with some of them then killing others to eat them (we only see two brief instances of lethal violence).
  • A man falls part of the way down a mountainside.
  • Arriving at a darkened cave, Boyd and Reich cautiously enter while everyone else stays outside. Inside and heading through the darkness (they have lanterns), the two men make their way even deeper into the cave and Reich then lowers himself into a hole where he finds several strung up skeletons. Realizing they've been set up, he and Boyd race toward the entrance. Meanwhile on the outside, a man has killed several people and is chasing another. Boyd and Reich then chase after this man through the woods.
  • Injured, Boyd tries to hide from the killer who slowly walks around looking for him.
  • We see a man cutting into a dead man's leg with a knife (no blood) as he prepares to eat part of him to stay alive.
  • The killer shows up in the guise of another man and no one will believe Boyd when he tells them the man's real identity.
  • Martha goes looking for Cleaves at night as suspenseful music plays.
  • Boyd goes looking for the killer and the two then get into a bloody battle.
  • Rifles/Explosives: Used during scenes set in the Mexican American War.
  • Knives/Pistols/Swords/Pitchforks: Used by various people to kill other people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Bastard" and "Shut up."
  • Granted, while the odds are probably extremely limited, the concept of cannibalism could be enticing to some kids.
  • A sudden animal sound inside a cave may startle some viewers.
  • The killer suddenly jumps out and surprises another man.
  • An extreme amount of scary and/or suspenseful music plays during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 1 hell, 1 damn and 4 uses of "Jesus Christ," 2 each of "Jesus" and "God" and 1 use each of "Good Lord," "Oh Jesus" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • We see Colqhoun's bare butt as he gets up and stands nude in front of the others.
  • Hart smokes a pipe and then hands it to Boyd.
  • Colqhoun smokes cigars in several scenes.
  • A woman briefly reacts to her brother's death.
  • Cannibals and cannibalism.
  • We see several flashbacks to the Mexican American War that show people being wounded/killed from gunfire and/or explosions. We also see Boyd run up to an opposing soldier, break his neck, and aim a gun at another soldier.
  • During Colqhoun's recounting of what happened to his party, we see two brief flashbacks of men being killed with bloody results.
  • Suspicious of Colqhoun, Reich holds a knife to his throat.
  • We see that a man has killed several other people (noted by their strung-up skeletons).
  • A man repeatedly stabs another man and then shoots a third who threw a hatchet that landed in the already wounded man. The killer then tries to shoot a fourth man, but his gun is empty. However, he does chase and eventually kill that man.
  • Reich fires at the killer, but misses. Moments later, the killer throws a knife that lands in him and he then falls over a cliff. Boyd then shoots the killer in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground, but he then gets up and threatens Boyd.
  • Out of reflex, an injured man grabs Boyd and tries to choke him.
  • We see a man cutting into a dead man's leg with a knife (no blood) as he prepares to eat part of him to stay alive.
  • In a hallucination, a man hits another man with a large mallet and then repeatedly stabs him with a stake, resulting in blood squirting out and flowing from the victim's mouth. We then see the assailant pull out a chunk of flesh and eat it.
  • Boyd slices the killer's hand with a knife, and later holds a knife to the killer's neck, but another person holds their knife to Boyd's neck, and nothing else happens.
  • We see glimpses of dead and bloody horses and then also see that another man has been killed.
  • A man comes up and head-butts Boyd and then punches him.
  • A man kills another man with a sword.
  • The killer stabs Boyd, making him choose between imminent death or becoming a cannibal.
  • A man slits another man's throat (after being asked to do that by the victim) and we see extreme amounts of blood squirting or gushing out.
  • Boyd and the killer get into a fight with the killer hitting him with a large piece of wood. Boyd impales him with a pitchfork and the killer then stabs him with a knife. The two head-butt each other and Boyd hits the killer's arm with a hatchet and then repeatedly hits him with a large beam. The two then struggle over a knife with the killer stabbing Boyd in the back with it. Both then get smashed by a large bear trap.

  • Reviewed March 16, 1999 / Posted March 19, 1999

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