Ahh, yes, another movie that I could watch everyday. Ravenous was released in 1999, and features a fabulous cast including Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, and Jeffrey Jones. It follows the story of a soldier, Captain John Boyd, who is promoted to a fort in the Sierra Nevadas following the Mexican-American war. Boyd, who “froze” on the battlefield, ended up behind enemy lines by playing dead, and then captured command of the opposing army. However, by him freezing out of fear, his superior feels that it was an act of ‘cowardice’, and while receiving a medal and promotion, is sent away from his platoon because of his actions. Upon his arrival, he meets a delightfully strange cast of characters including colonels, privates, and two Native Americans. As he is beginning to fit in, the group discovers a man outside, suffering from exposure and hypothermia. They nurse him back to health and he begins to weave a disturbing tale of his traveling party becoming lost in the snow, and having to resort to cannibalism. The viewer is reminded of the legend of the Donner party, and others who have had to resort to the ultimate taboo in order to survive. The stranger foreshadows the fact that human flesh has made him stronger and strangely craven. It is believed there are still surviving members out there, so they form a small search party and set out. It turns out, the mysterious stranger, Colqhoun, or Col. Ives, has actually killed and eaten them all already and is simply luring the others into a cannibalistic trap. What follows is a brilliant descent into blood, psychological distress, and near madness, as Boyd is faced with another decision regarding his cowardice. Does he back down or face the threat head on?
Ravenous is such a well-made film, and besides being directed by a female, which is a rarity in horror, it features the fantastic and haunting music of Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. The music will no doubt be stuck in the viewer’s head long after the film ends. The gore in the film is not gratuitous; it is used for effect but not in an overly done way. It relates to the story and is, indeed, organic to the plot. Many aspects of the film somewhat correlate to the real-life alleged murderer, Alfred Packer, a trail guide and prospector in the 1800s who was accused of killing and eating those in his charge. Ravenous is a lovely gem in the horror industry, which you either love or hate. I am transfixed by this movie, and its psychological effects on the viewer as well as the film’s characters. The viewer is left questioning their own mortality, morality, and what it would be like to be in that situation. Could you do it? Would you do it? These are the central questions the movie raises, as well as, since not much study exists on the effects of cannibalism, what if it really were addicting and made one almost super-human? It is no wonder this topic is so taboo in our culture, and many others, and Ravenous beautifully and hauntingly illustrates why.