Guy Pearce as Capt. John Boyd
Robert Carlyle as Col. Ives/F.W. Colqhoun
David Arquette as Pvt. Cleaves
Jeremy Davies as Pvt. Toffler
Jeffrey Jones as Col. Hart
Joseph Running Fox as George
I have said it before I know, and I will say it time and time again. One of the most important elements in any type of entertainment is originality. Be it in movies, music or (cough) wrestling, originality is the key to staying ahead of the pack. Sometimes, however, too much originality can turn off the main-stream movie goers. Such is the case with Ravenous, one of the most original and most underrated horror movies ever. It is one of my favorites.
Ravenous, set in the 1800’s, begins with war hero Captain Boyd (Guy Pearce…..what the hell ever happened to him anyway?) being sent to the remote, odd, cold, slightly dysfunctional military outpost of Fort Spencer in Sierra Nevada after an act of “cowardice” in the Mexican war is found out. Boyd is reserved, quiet and usually seems deep in thought throughoutRavenous, and meets some interesting characters when he arrives at Fort Spencer.
There is the drunk Lt. Knox, the bored Col. Hart (Jeffrey Jones speaking of where the hell did they go..), the slightly psychotic tough guy soldier Pvt. Reich, “churchy” Pvt. Tofler (half retarded? Seriously, watch it and see) and the odd Pvt. Cleaves (David Arquette) along with locals George and Martha.
Boyd settles in, and for a little while, things seem alright…until one night when a mysterious man appears at the Fort, half dead, freezing and starving. He says his name is FW Calhoun and proceeds to tell the tale ofhow he got there. Much like a campfire tale that unfolds in similar fashion to the infamous Donner Party, he tells of his wagon party getting stranded in the mountains and having to take shelter in a cave where the leader of the party, Col Ives, proceeded to gradually kill and eat nearly the entire group. Calhoun, he says, made an escdape and found his way to the Fort.
Upon hearing that there may be another survivor up there still with Ives, Col. Hart organizes a search party to head up into the hills. Before the search party heads out local man George warns that Calhoun should not be trusted, and relays the story of the Wendigo myth which tells of a man being possessed by an evil Wendigo spirit after eating human flesh in a time of famine. This is where the insanity begins. I won’t tell much more, but I will say that nothing is quite what it seems. This movie is enjoyable to watch, exciting, and (gasp!) even funny (very dark humor albeit) at times.
Cannibalism is not touched upon very often in horror movies, especially not set in the 1800s, making Ravenous very unique. The Wendigo Myth is also seldom the topic of a horror movie. The time period, though, is probably the most original part of thefilm. I can’t think of another horror film set in the 1800s, in fact. The setting is absolutely amazing, the scenery is beautiful yet quietly eerie and the musical score will transport you to that time and place in history.
Ravenous also creates a tremendous sense of isolation that you can really feel. I am sure that very few have actually seen Ravenous, so I must ask “why?” It is truly original and I am sure that, one day, it will become a cult classic.