This trailer contains spoilers. Watch at your own risk!
The tagline for Ravenous reads ‘You Are Who You Eat.’ Yes, this is a film about cannibalism, but since it’s set in California in the 1840’s this is also American history and thus educational. Unlike most of the movies I watch, Ravenous features a cast many people would recognize. The trailer is full of spoilers, so I’d skip it.
Captain Boyd (Guy Pearce) is awarded for bravery during the Mexican-American War; he faked being dead and ended up taking the enemy HQ. The experience left him with blood in his mouth, literally. His disgusted superiors transfer him to a fort in California, near the Sierra Rockies. Led by Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones), they’re a ragtag bunch.
The plot kicks into gear when a half-dead Scotsman named Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) stumbles into the fort and tells a hair-raising story about his wagon party being stuck in a cave in the mountains for the winter. They ate the oxen, and then they ate the horses, and then they ate their shoes and then they started to eat each other. Colqhoun ran away before their guide could eat him.
A rescue party is mounted, which leads to a gruesome discovery. Five skeletons are found in the cave, and there were only six people in the party. The rescue mission ends in another massacre, but Boyd manages to escape. His leg is broken, so he eats part of one of his dead comrades to heal himself; in Ravenous, eating human flesh grants you superhuman powers. Maybe it has to do with the Wendigo, or maybe it’s Christians eating the body of Christ every Sunday, or maybe it’s Manifest Destiny. Whatever. An unpleasant surprise awaits Boyd upon his return to the fort, and he’s faced with a choice: death, or a full belly.
The villain is the most interesting character of Ravenous. Part of that is because Boyd isn’t the action-hero type. He spends most of this movie scared shitless. His fellow soldiers think he’s a coward, but by the end of Ravenous Boyd’s weakness becomes his strength, one of this film’s many interesting twists.
Finally: I’d be doing people a disservice if I didn’t mention Robert Carlyle’s hat. Carlyle wears a great black hat that he ditches halfway through the movie. I don’t know what type of hat it is, but it’s a damn shame it went out of style, and I want one.
Ravenous is the funniest film about cannibalism you’ll ever watch, but it doesn’t skimp on the gore. Guy Pearce plays it straight; Robert Carlyle doesn’t. Good writing, good acting, good cast, an off-beat soundtrack – this is the full package. Still, if you aren’t sure whether you’d like a movie about cannibalism, I might err on the side of caution.