Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ravenous (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Of Hunger and Of Gore

The last time I watched Ravenous I was working at Blockbuster Video. It was 1999, and DVD was becoming the hip new thing. We were prepping customers for what they might see on a disc everything from features, to packaging differences to those "black bars" that nobody could get their Mylar tape heads around. I watched Ravenous on a tape in order to prep for it's upcoming release. This was after Trainspotting had made a great impact on my life and welcomed me into the drug world of Irvine Welsh. That's where I first saw Robert Carlyle's furious anger and glad to say it was not the last place I would enjoy his acting. He made me laugh, but there was some real power to his accent and scream and fury. Now I knew that his role in Ravenous wouldn't exactly be humorous, but I don't think I could have expected the wholesome cannibal goodness that was about to befall me. Also keep in mind that while I had seen Cannibal Ferox at a rather young age, but wasn't altogether familiar with much of the existing cannibal cinema beyond Silence of the Lambs or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Let's say that I've seen a bit since first enjoying Ravenous. I've seen just how far cannibal movies can go. I've seen their limitations, and Ravenous seems to have actually broken some of the boundaries set forth by Euro-Cannibal pictures of the 70's and 80's finding a new way to tell a tale of hungry folks in the wild, picking apart men as if they were straight from the deli counter. Scream Factory has chosen to release a movie about eating people that is a pretty-gory as a Deodato film or a Lenzi carnage-buster, but it is also a movie filled with intellectual stamina, fine acting and amazing cinemascapes that bring to life a period in American history through hungry eyes.  And of course it has some really cool gore.

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

It's a recipe for nonstop action and excitement when the inhabitants of an isolated military outpost go up against a marauding band of cannibals in a deadly struggle for survival! Ever watchful of the enemies who might literally tear them apart, the uneasy alliance of soldiers must fight brutal elements of the Sierra Nevada wilderness – as well as their own murderous instincts to stay alive. Directed by Antonia Bird (Priest), this white-knuckle thriller stars Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3, Prometheus), Robert Carlyle (Once Upon A Time) and David Arquette (Scream 4).

Ravenous is a movie of palate. It suggests that hunger knows no bounds, and that pushed to their limit, men will eat each other without moral culpability or apprehension. The concept of gaining the strength from eating of human flesh of a man you kill is nothing new, but it's corralled into a unique tale during American expansion into the West. The common tale of folks getting stuck up in a mountain snow bound seems to be at least moderately popular not withstanding tales of the Donner Party. What makes Ravenous successful is that it is a tale of one man's journey into the wilderness into isolation away from the world of man who is then confronted by the world that is the wilderness in the form of a man, gone wild, cannibal, power hungry. Unlike cannibal features in the Italian cycle, the focus isn't on cruelty to animals or native struggle against imperialism. Ravenous doesn't focus on gratuity though it is a visceral, gory experience balancing human gore with various food stuffs to emphasize disgust. This is highly effective and, in fact, moderately nauseating to even me.

What isn't immediately obvious about a movie called Ravenous that features human flesh on the menu with great splatter and spill, is that it is also quite funny, intentionally so. Director Antonio Bird decided to make a movie about very serious stuff that doesn't take itself so seriously as to think itself above its audience. Yes, the concept are traditional and philosophical, but even the Mona Lisa had to take a dump. It's this comedic timing and presence that can turn a gory moment into a moment to cheer at the screen. That's not to say that the picture is without startling moments that can be quite frightening where the tension builds and the survival will surely be of the fittest. The loser is on the menu. There's a reason this cast was put together with actors who can do both serious roles and have excellent comic timing. David Arquette wasn't just cast in Ravenous because he could play a cop in a Wes Craven movie.

The Scream Factory release is an HD transfer 1080p AR: 2.35:1, DTS HD 5.1 audio. Of course it's a significant upgrade to the edition I once watched on tape, but it looks excellent. The screen seems divided into three colors. Gory reds. Shadows of deep black and white boisterous contrasty snow. It's a superior product that looks amazing. Similarly excellent are the special features. With deleted scenes, TV spots, Still galleries, Costume design and production design as well as three commentary tracks, you're bound to get a finer appreciate for the intent of the filmmakers. The release comes with two variations of cover art.

Ravenous is a highly effective, thought-provoking work of cannibal greatness that looks vibrant and feels raunchy. When was the last time you laughed so hard you puked? Maybe Ravenous will give you the opportunity to answer that question and all while having one Hell of a good time. Let me leave you with a word of advice: Think twice about eating a rare steak and watching Ravenous if your intent is to ever enjoy steak again. This is a potent release from Scream Factory with enjoyable modern gore that still carries with it a certain sense of almost surreal ooze that makes eating a person seem almost appetizing; an excellent edition to the Summer of Fear lineup.

You can order Ravenous now. Available June 3rd. Buy hungry!

-Doc Terror

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