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RAVENOUS

SYNOPSIS:
An act of cowardice finds American army Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) stationed to a remote military outpost in the icy Sierra Nevada mountains of California, populated by a company of misfits including commanding officer Hart (Jeffrey Jones), drunken veterinary surgeon/doctor Knox (Stephen Spinell) and Cleaves (David Arquette), a cook more interested in mind-altering substances. Distressed Scottish settler, Colquohn (Robert Carlyle), arrives at the fort with grisly tales of the cannibalism resorted to by his travelling party after becoming snowbound and seeking refuge in a cave. Hart leads an expedition to the cave where Colquohn is revealed as the true cannibal whose predelictions are part of an Indian myth called Weendigo, when hunger becomes an insatiable craving.

"Fargo meets Wolf meets American Werewolf in Paris! As Robert Carlyle unbuttons his shirt, slowly and deliberately, it is as far removed from his role in The Full Monty as you could possibly imagine. Carlyle is almost unrecognisable, at least in the first half of Ravenous, a horror thriller that is not sure if it is a black comedy in the vein of Fargo (pun intended), or whether it is a horror flick, and we should be munching on our fingers (or the fingers of the person sitting next to us). Apart from a few chuckles in the script, like 'It's lonely being a cannibal; it's tough making friends', much of the humour and personality comes from Michael Nyman & Damon Albarn's musical score. At times, Nyman's music is fuel for a headache, overbearingly repetitive with jarring dischords and piercing sounds. As I sit wondering how the genius creator of Kundun's heavenly sounds can inflict such pain, strains of glorious musical passages suddenly fill the air, and I feel guilty for having wished him camel rash. There is even an effective banjo and fiddle passage as a cannibal rampage is in full flight. But let's fact it, Ravenous is not intended to be taken too seriously. There's enough blood and gore to keep the bloodthirsty happy, a full moon to alert the werewolf, and a smattering of suspense and anticipation to keep you on the edge of your seat. The cast is tops, and is headed by a splendid, sinister Carlyle, who is chillingly convincing. Guy Pearce is somewhat restricted by his bland character; he is limited to resorting to eye rolls, various interpretations of unsure, unwilling and understated horror on his constantly bloodied face. The scenery is gorgeous with picturesque snow covered fir trees and a Yultide winter white setting that dazzles. Chilling, thrilling and darkly droll, Ravenous is a fun bloodthirsty romp. A little word of advice; after the credits roll, you may not feel like going home to carve the roast. In fact you may not be as famished as you thought. At the preview screening, the lucky door prize was a meat tray I hope the winner checked the meat cuts carefully before throwing them on the barbie!"
Louise Keller

"If you only see one cannibal horror-comedy-thriller this or any other year make sure it's Ravenous. Forget the misleading trailer which gives the impression Guy Pearce simply walks into a fort populated by people-eaters and has to battle to survive or become the main course. It eventually gets around to something like that but there's much more substance to Antonia Bird's film than just stalk, stab and eat. The backdrop of westward expansion and massive consumption of the American land by ravenous settlers adds a rich layer of metaphor to Colquohn's personal hunger and unlikely director Antonia Bird (Priest) doesn't take the easy way out by playing it all for laughs. Humour is used sparingly and effectively (again, the trailer makes it look like National Lampoon's Cannibal Academy). Pearce, although he hardly says anything for the first half hour, has a stoic determination which humanises the horror and Carlyle's relish makes his bad guy a treat to watch. Jeffrey Jones is also terrific and proves yet again why he's one of the best character actors working today. On the down side the music by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn (from the British band Blur) is often inappropriate and undercuts the effectiveness of some scenes but they save their best with a malevolent extended drone in the climax. The subject matter alone makes Ravenous a tough sell but the full house at the public screening I went to seemed to get the humour and feel the tension, of which there is plenty. It hits and misses but considering the territory it delves into Ravenous emerges as a real surprise and is worth more than just a curious look."
Richard Kuipers

"One can't entirely expect all films to have a pint to them; and most American studio films are designed to, at the very least, be entertaining. Some succeed at this better than others. Then there are the oddities such as Ravenous, a film with some wonderful ideas that fall crashing down before they have a chance to develop. This is the kind of film that simply has little idea of what it's trying to be. On the one hand it's a black comedy, but the film's comedic elements are thin on the ground and never fully realised. Yes, it's a horror film, defined by its excessive violence and truckloads of blood, but what it lacks is suspense. The film is designed to shock, but the idea of cannibalism is more amusing than frightening, and it's a matter of grotesqueness for the sake of it. Characterisation is another major flaw here, or lack thereof. We never get a hint of who these strangely amoral people are, and they're so absurd, including the film's dull central character played with increasing disinterest by Guy Pearce, that we never care who gets eaten and why. Director Antonia Bird is out of her element with this outdoorsy horror flick. In between gutfuls of cannibalism lay a tedious and shallow work, rather weakly acted and poorly put together. It's a shame, because somewhere amidst this inedible piece of nonsense, lay a deliciously dark comedy waiting to be devoured. This ain't it!"
Paul Fischer



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

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HELEN BECK talks to Robert Carlyle, Guy Pearce and Antonia Bird about the
INGREDIENTS that went into Ravenous.

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

RAVENOUS(MA15+)
(US)

CAST: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette

DIRECTOR: Antonia Bird

PRODUCER: Adam Fields & David Heyman

SCRIPT: Ted Griffin III

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony B.Richmond

EDITOR: Neil Farrell

MUSIC: Michael Nyman, Damon Albarn

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bryce Perrin

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 22, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: Oct 27, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox







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