The 1999 dark comedy/horror movie Ravenous was one of those movies that didn’t receive a lot of critical acclaim during its initial run in the theaters. Easily swept under the pop culture rug for whatever was hip at the time, I suppose. I ended up catching it back in the day on VHS. Good Lord, just writing that senctence makes me feel old. Anyways, what I really enjoyed about this movie is that it managed to capture a multitude of genres/subgenres in one film and made each one work. There’s a mixture of comedy, albeit dark, suspense/thriller and elements of supernatural horror as well as a fairly accurate portrayal of America in the 19th Century. What carries the movie is the well written script and the ensemble cast of Guy Pierce, Robert Caryle, David Arquette, and Jeremy Davies along with others you most likely point at and say ‘Hey, I know that guy…maybe’.
I think that the strong writing and great performances keep this movie from falling a part since it is all about cannibalism. Given the infamous Donner party and the lesser known Colorado Cannibal – Alfred Packer, cannibalism was an issue during the time period, and not just fodder for B-movies. It may seem rather tasteless, (yes, that was a pun) to use comedy in a movie about cannibalism. But, I feel that the quirky/dark comedy aspects of the movie aliveate the dread and tension that permeates the rest of the movie. Not all movies can equally balance the macabre with the dry/quirky humor but Ravenous pulls it off nicely. The fact that the humor is dry rather then slap stick helps the humor work well with the rest of the script.
Ravenous has more in common with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft then it does with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s not to say that there’s no bloodshed in the movie, but it places a lot of emphasis on the psychological impact of being essentially trapped in a remote location with a suspected cannibal. It is this intellectual approach to horror that makes Ravenous a thinking person horror/thriller. Empasising the psychological impact of it all is Robert Caryle’s potrayal of the movie antagonist. He manages to encompass a combination of being charming, creepy, intelligent and utterly mad. He gives the type of performance that effectively potrays an utterly subhuman persona.
If you’ve not seen Ravenous before, I would recommend it to anyone that’s interested in historical horror/thrillers that have a dark sense of humor.