The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



It's absolutely unfathomable that a major studio released Ravenous. The 1999 film is so offbeat, so daring, and so blatantly non-commercial that you have to wonder what led the suits to think it was a good idea. This movie would never be made within the studio system today. Ravenous predictably bombed, opening in 18th place opening weekend despite playing on over 1,000 screens, and earning a grand total of just $2 million during its short box office run. While by no means a hit, the film has become one of the ultimate modern cult films. Just mention the title to horror buffs on Twitter and you'll get enthusiastic responses. Those same fans have been calling for a Blu-Ray release for years, and now they're getting one, courtesy of Scream Factory.

Ravenous is set during the Mexican-American War. Guy Pearce plays Capt. John Boyd, a disgraced officer who is exiled to Fort Spencer, a remote base high up in the mountains. He's not the only new resident. Another man, Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle), also arrives, with a horrible story about his wagon train getting lost and its members turning to cannibalism to survive. Boyd and a few others organize a search party, eventually realizing that Colqhoun has led them into a trap. Boyd manages to escape, but not before eating part of a fellow soldier to stay alive. Making his way back to Fort Spencer, Boyd now has the hunger. (The film addresses the Wendigo myth, which states that a person who consumes another person's flesh will turn into a demon with an insatiable appetite.) To his surprise, Colqhoun is there, and the two men engage in a brutal showdown.

I saw Ravenous back when it first came out, and again for this Blu-Ray release. Both times, my reaction was the same: it turned my stomach. It's not that the film is excessively gory; it's more that the subject matter is just so distasteful (no pun intended) to me that my system can't quite handle it. Director Antonia Bird shoots in grim closeups that accentuate the blood/mud mixture that cakes everything and everyone. There are also several intentionally disgusting closeups of people cooking and/or eating meat, just to drive the point home. It all combines to create an incessantly queasy feeling.

This is not to say that I think Ravenous is a bad film. Far from it. In fact, the movie is admirable in its ability to create and sustain an ominous tone. You cannot help but be affected by its unsettling nature. The willingness to delve into uncomfortable subject matter in a suitably uncomfortable manner deserves respect, as well. Ravenous does not pull any punches. It even has an amusingly sick sense of humor that pervades every frame. How many movies try to mine a dark laugh from cannibalism? Not many. The actors all do fine work, with Pearce effectively conveying Boyd's frightful plunge down the proverbial rabbit hole, and Carlyle creating a wonderfully unhinged villain.

It's really no wonder a cult of hardcore fans has embraced the movie. Ravenous is unlike anything else, and even if it's not to my own specific taste, I have great respect for its unrepentant weirdness.

Blu-Ray Features:

Scream Factory's Blu-Ray transfer is outstanding; sequences in the snowy mountains are especially atmospheric. They've also loaded the disc up with some bonus features. Late director Antonia Bird provides an audio commentary alongside Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn, who provided the memorable score. Screenwriter Ted Griffin and actor Jeffrey Jones have a second commentary together, while Robert Carlyle gets a third of his own.

There are twelve minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Bird, plus a 20-minute interview with Jones, who discusses his memories of making the film at length. The theatrical trailer, a TV spot, and a costume/production photo gallery round out the set. It's safe to say that Ravenous is going to be a popular Blu-Ray among horror aficionados.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Ravenous is rated R for considerable gore and strong violence. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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