Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Antonia Bird|
|Produced by||Adam Fields
Tim Van Rellim
|Written by||Ted Griffin|
and David Arquette
|Music by||Michael Nyman
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Ravenous is a 1999 American black comedy horror film and satire directed by Antonia Bird and starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeffrey Jones and David Arquette. The film revolves around cannibalism in 1840s California and some elements bear similarities to the story of the Donner Party and that of Alferd Packer. Screenwriter Ted Griffin lists Packer's story, as recounted in a couple of paragraphs of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, as one of his inspirations for Carlyle's character. The film's darkly humorous and ironic take on its gruesome subject matter have led some to label it as a black comedy. The film's unique score by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn generated a significant amount of attention. The film's production did not get off to a good start. Original director Milcho Manchevski left the production three weeks after shooting started. He was replaced by Bird at the suggestion of Carlyle.
During the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), Second Lieutenant Boyd fights in the United States Army (Boyd is a former officer in the Army of the Republic of Texas, that merged with the US Army in 1846 - he still wears the Texas Army rank insignia of second lieutenant: one five pointed star on each shoulder strap). But in battle his courage fails him, and, to avoid being killed, he plays dead—while his unit is massacred. He is transported along with the other dead (with his commanding officer's blood dripping into his mouth) back to the Mexican headquarters. However, in a moment of sudden bravery, he captures the Mexican command. For his heroism Boyd is promoted to Captain, but when his commanding officer learns of the cowardice by which his victory was achieved, he exiles Boyd to the remote Fort Spencer in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
After Boyd joins the seven other inhabitants of Fort Spencer, a stranger named Colqhoun arrives and describes his wagon train becoming lost in the Sierra Nevadas and being reduced to cannibalism to avoid starvation. The party's guide, a Colonel Ives, had promised the party a shorter route to the Pacific Ocean but instead led them on a more circuitous route, and was then the one to lead their turn to cannibalism. The soldiers stationed at the fort see it as their duty to investigate and search for survivors, and so assemble a rescue party. Before they leave they are warned by their Native American scout, George, of the Wendigo myth; a story that a man consuming the flesh of his enemies takes their strength but becomes a demon cursed by a hunger for human flesh.
- Guy Pearce as Captain John Boyd
- Robert Carlyle as Colonel Ives / F.W. Colqhoun
- David Arquette as Private Cleaves
- Jeremy Davies as Private Toffler
- Jeffrey Jones as Colonel Hart
- John Spencer as General Slauson
- Stephen Spinella as Major Knox
- Neal McDonough as Private Reich
- Joseph Runningfox as George
- Sheila Tousey as Martha
- Bill Brochtrup as Lindus
- Fernado Becerril as Mexican Commander
- Gabriel Berthier as Mexican Commander
- Pedro Altamirano as Mexican Commander
- Damián Delgado as Mexican Grenadier
- Tim Van Rellim as Mr. MacCready
- Miezi Sungu as Jones
- David Heyman as Mr. Janus
The film was shot on location in the Tatra Mountains, Slovakia and Durango, Mexico. One week before production, original director Milcho Manchevski was said to have submitted new storyboards, which would have required additional two weeks of shooting. The production company, Fox 2000, eventually agreed to an additional week, with complaints that Manchevski had refused production meetings with the producers. Meanwhile, Manchevski complained Fox 2000 executive Laura Ziskin micromanaged the production by vetoing his chosen technicians and casting against his wishes.
Shooting was delayed on the first day as Manchievski and the production were still negotiating over the production budget and shooting schedule. As filming commenced, Manchevski says Ziskin sent him notes on the rushes "every day", complaining about the amount of dirt on the costumes and the number of closeups. Screenwriter Ted Griffin was at hand for "constant rewrites" during the shooting.
After three weeks of shooting, Ziskin arrived to the set with director Raja Gosnell in tow to dismiss Manchevski and place Gosnell in as a replacement. While Manchevski left the production, the cast has been said to have rejected Gosnell. Robert Carlyle then recommended Antonia Bird, his frequent collaborator and business partner, to take over.
Following ten days of negotiations, Bird arrived in Prague to helm the production. She, too, would criticize the circumstances under which the filming was to take place, describing the allocated studio space as "horrible" and the scheduling of the shoot "manipulative". She also went on to say her predecessor, Manchievski, should not be blamed for the problematic production.
Bird suggests the final theatrical cut had elements introduced without her approval, as she expressed disdain over the voiceover narration and was interested in recutting the film for the European market.
Box office performance
Ravenous opened on March 19, 1999 in the United States in 1,040 theaters, accumulating $1,040,727 over its opening weekend. It finished eighteenth for the weekend. The film went on to gross $2,062,405 in North America, far less than its reported $12 million budget.
Ravenous received mixed reviews from professional critics, somewhat tending toward the negative. However, the movie has since gained a cult following. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received 43% overall approval out of 46 reviews. Yet 79% of Rotten Tomatoes fans approved of the film. Roger Ebert, gave Ravenous a better review, rating it 3 stars out of 4 and stating that it was "the kind of movie where you savor the texture of the filmmaking, even when the story strays into shapeless gore."
Michael Smith of White City Cinema ranked it as his 21st favorite film of the 1990s.
- Cannibal! The Musical – a 1993 American independent black comedy musical film
- The Donner Party – a 2009 film based on the ill-fated Donner Party expedition
- Cannibalism in popular culture
- Directors Cut, Anita M. Busch, EW.com, 04-10-98. Accessed 04-04-12.
- Film: They all but ate me alive!, Roger Clarke, The Independent, 03-09-99. Accessed 04-04-12.
- FANGO Flashback: “RAVENOUS”
- IMDB: "Ravenous" Trivia”
- "Ravenous (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
- "Ravenous". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
- Ebert, Roger (1999-03-19). "Ravenous". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
- Ravenous at the Internet Movie Database
- Ravenous at AllMovie
- Ravenous at Rotten Tomatoes
- Ravenous at Metacritic
- Ravenous at Box Office Mojo