A box office bomb in 1999, Ravenous is a frontier cannibal movie. Starring Guy Pearce (an actor you always want to like but then realize he’s never in good movies) and Robert Carlyle (still coasting on Trainspotting‘s success), this film does the rather remarkable thing of flat out accepting cannibalism as a means to power. There is no wishy-washy-ness here. If you eat someone else, you absorb their power and in the process become more and more desirous of it. Man vs man in the most bare bones survivalist manner. There’s your horror.
Carlyle is sinister in his role as Colquhoun. His tale is Donner party-esque but is soon revealed to be much more than that. This would have failed but Colquhoun in clinical in his manipulations, which Carlyle is able to portray with effective glee. Balanced against this is Pearce’s Captain Boyd, a man in turmoil with his own conscience and cowardice. The dualism here is fascinating and could have been taken a lot farther, but what we do get is prime entertainment. Consuming, if you will.
But there are definite flaws in this eat-’em-up romp. There are more than a few moments where it’s clear the film can’t decide if it wants to be jokey or serious. This is confounded by the utterly ridiculous if not flat out stupid soundtrack undercutting nearly every scene. On top of this, the power in cannibalism is unabashedly coded in racist views of the indigenous. The wendigo myth is unnecessary aspect inserted to simply fetishize Native American culture.
As I mentioned, the opening third where Colquhoun ensnares the others is brilliant. The film lags a bit in the middle, but the homoeroticism of the last scene between Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle is exquisite.
An underrated flick with some rather strong moments.