Owing something of a debt to the underrated and funny Cannibal! The Musical, the 1999 cult film Ravenous works as a horror/comedy/western that has some bleak humor and offers up a decent social/political commentary as well. The cast is fantastic, as the two main stars are Guy Pearce, and Robert Carlyle, who at the time were still up and coming stars. Rounding out the rest of the bunch is Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Neal McDonough and John Spencer. They aid in the film being as good as it is, although the humorous moments and the freaky elements combine to form a unique and entertaining movie. Of course one doesn’t quite know what to expect when viewing a film based off of the cannibalism tales of the Donner Party and Alferd Packer. Also the score by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn is full of western twang and only underlines the insanity that populates most of the film.
Starting out innocently enough, Ravenous begins with a solider, Boyd, being sent out to a fort in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. From there the soldiers stationed at Fort Spencer, plus Boyd, run into a man who turns out to be a cannibal. There is a scene that is equal parts creepy, hilarious, action packed and rather violent, and I will not reveal what exactly happens because it should be viewed in the context of the film.
Later on, Carlyle’s psychotic, murderous soldier mentions Manifest Destiny, twisting the idea of expansion to fit his own evil desires, reminding the audience that westward expansion was supported by violent conquest of the local American Indians. Even though at times this film’s material wears a bit thin, Ravenous is still a nice addition to the horror genre. Not only do I love the ending, but I also wish that Hollywood would make another film quite like this one, or at least one that was a horror western, although perhaps that already happened and such a film was not as good as Bird’s effort. Too bad if that’s the case.