Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ravenous Blu-Ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Inspired by twisted tales of cannibalistic survival like the real-life Donner Party, cult terror feature Ravenous graphically depicts a twist on an old cliché: You are who you eat. Directed by the late Antonia Bird (Priest), this unnerving cult thriller stars Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3, Prometheus), Robert Carlyle (TV’s Once Upon A Time), Jeremy Davies (Lost, Saving Private Ryan), Jeffrey Jones (Deadwood, Sleepy Hollow), John Spencer (The West Wing), Stephen Spinella (MILK, Royal Pains), Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Band of Brothers) and David Arquette (Scream 4). The film has steadily and deservedly grown a large following over the last fifteen years. 

Film (3 out of 5 stars)
There are few movies I've seen that gross me out enough and cause me to lose my appetite.  Ravenous is one of them.  I remember seeing this in the theater and thinking how gross it was.  The amount of blood and the killings didn’t bother me… it was the idea of what was happening. The movie starts off with the lone survivor of a massacre by the Mexicans during the Mexican-American war Lt. Boyd (Guy Pearce), getting promoted to Captain and getting assigned to Fort Spencer, high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  

After he arrives, he and the other residents help a man named Calhoun, who says his wagon train got lost and had to resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive.  The wagon train’s leader, Colonel Ives (Robert Carlyle), said he knew the straightest route to the Pacific Ocean, but ended up on a roundabout path that caused them to fall behind schedule and get lost.  The soldiers at the Fort organize a search party, but before leaving are warned by their Native American guide about the Wendigo – a man who turns into a demon after ingesting human flesh.

When the search party finds the cave where Calhoun says they took shelter, they realize that Calhoun is the one who killed all this companions and he sets about killing the soldiers. Captain Boyd only escapes when he jumps off a cliff.  After hitting the bottom, Boyd, who has a broken leg, hides in a ditch with the body of one of his partners.  When some time has passed, Boyd ends up eating a bit of the dead man’s flesh.  His leg begins to heal and he makes it back to Fort Spencer, where no one believes his story… especially after Ives arrives and is all cleaned up.

After one of the remaining soldiers turns up missing, Boyd is chained up. In order to prove the story of the Wendigo is true, Ives injures Boyd and tells him to either eat or die. Boyd ends up eating and gains the strength needed to recover and become healthy again.  He convinces Ives to free him from his chains and takes matters into his own hands in order to save others who might come across the residents of the Fort.

Ravenous is a bit of a cross between a horror movie and a comedy. While not intentional, there are humorous parts of the film.  Mostly at the beginning, but I still found myself smiling.  Twisted, I know.  But there are moments where I thought it was kind of funny.  I enjoyed this movie the second time around.  I haven’t seen it since it was in the theater, but I don’t remember enjoying is as much as I did this time.
Video (3 out of 5 stars)
The 1080p high-definition widescreen (2.35:1) presentation of Ravenous was good.  It takes place in the wintry mountains of the Sierra Nevada, so colors were muted and not real bright.  The snow wasn't too white and everything looked natural.  Firelight was accurate and warm and the shadows cast by the light were good. 
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
Ravenous is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is good.  There is also an option for English 2.0 DTS-master audio and there is even an option to watch the film with only the music and audio.  Dialogue is intelligible and easily heard.  The background sounds are good and when the characters were walking in the snow, it sounded real and not like they were walking on white cornflakes.  For those who need them, English subtitles are available.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
There were quite a few special features on this Blu-ray.  I was impressed with what the film makers did with the features.
  • Interview with Jeffrey Jones  – Jeffery Jones talks about the film, the Mexican-American War and the different aspects of his character.  A good insight on the film and how many different ways the title of the film can be taken.
  • Deleted scenes – Very rough cuts of 10 different scenes from the film.  All good choices to have been left out.
  • Deleted scenes with commentary – The same 10 rough cut scenes with commentary from the director.
  • Theatrical Trailer – the theatrical trailer for the film.  The trailer makes the viewer think they are going to begin watching a comedy or a parody.
  • TV Spot – The commercial for the film.  Similar to the official trailer.
  • Photo Gallery: Costume Design and Set design – The gallery of drawings of the characters costumes, with some explanations as to what inspired these outfits.  Also, the designs of the set… how the Fort was created.  This is set to music, but is just a slide show.
  • Under the Audio Tab
    • Audio Commentary with Director Antonia Bird and Composer Damon Albarn
    • Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Ted Griffin and Actor Jeffrey Jones
    • Audio Commentary with Actor Robert Carlyle

Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
The second time around, I enjoyed Ravenous much more.  Despite the grossness factor of the topic of the film, I found it humorous at times and really liked how Robert Carlyle and Guy Pearce portrayed their characters.  Partly taken from the story of the Donner Party, Ravenous is an enjoyable film… if you call cannibalism enjoyable.

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