Directed By Antonia Birds
Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle and David Arquette
What’s the best way to measure a film’s success? I’ve never really cared how a movie does at the box office or what the critics think but when a film fails to connect on both levels it’s a safe bet that the movie just did not work and that it was in fact a failure. If you make that assumption about Antonia Birds 1999 film Ravenous you would be flat out wrong. While the film only grossed $2,062,045 on a $12,000,000 budget and currently has a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes this film by my personal measurement is a resounding success. In March 1999 I saw Ravenous in a nearly empty theater. After the movie was over my friend looked at me and said “that was brilliant, where is everybody?” Apparently they went to see Analyze This and Forces of Nature that weekend.
In the opening sequence of Ravenous we are introduced to Capt. John Boyd played by Guy Pearce. Boyd is a US soldier fighting in the Mexican-American war who is afraid of dying in battle. When his squadron is over taken he hides underneath the bodies of his fallen comrades to avoid detection. The blood of his fellow soldiers is quickly covering his face and filling his mouth while quietly cries in fear. After struggling for a few moments Capt. Boyd is overtaken by rage and climbs out from the pile of soldiers. We see a man who is no longer afraid of dying. He is powerful and hell bent on killing every last one of the enemy forces single handedly. Capt. Boyd is declared a hero and treated to a steak dinner to celebrate. The way food is shot and the sound of the soldiers eating is enough to turn the stomach of the most carnivorous viewer.
The film strikes a remarkably difficult balance between comedy, horror, thriller and manages to succeed on all fronts. Loads of films have attempted to strike this balance but few have been as fully realized as Ravenous. Most films that attempt this sacrifice the scares when going for laughs or attempt to heighten tension after a comedic moment and it all falls flat.
Most descriptions of this movie give far too much away. While it is in no way The Sixth Sense, it doesn't hinge on a reveal in the final act. Ravenous is a slow burn and it reveals itself at a deliberate pace. If you haven’t seen this movie, avoid reading the back of the bluray case or the description on itunes. Just take my word for it and watch this delightful little tale. I guess this film would be considered a horror comedy but it’s in no way self- referential or playing it for the laughs. Robert Carlyle gives a manic performance that I cannot get enough of. With so many movies that I will never see, I rarely revisit films on a regular basis and I have seen Ravenous twice this year.
Shout Factory has recently released Ravenous on BluRay and has given this forgotten gem the respect it deserves. The print of the film looks beautiful and the soundtrack sounds flawless. The disc also has 3 audio commentaries, deleted scenes, interviews and production stills.