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Ravenous (1999) - Blu-ray Review

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Ravenous - Blu-ray Review

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3 stars

The pervading metaphor of “Manifest Destiny” as American soldiers turn to cannibalism in the 1840s is what sells director Antonia Bird’s horror film and makes it worth revisiting.  Ravenous was released in 1999 and, sunk by mediocre to poor reviews, most ignored the film; however it was spared from the trash bin by modern music enthusiasts due to the unique score from Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn.  A second viewing with Shout Factory’s excellent blu-ray release shows that – while the shoot was problematic – the film survives the late 1990’s due to a solid cast and a mesmerizing theme. 

Strange things are about to happen at Fort Spencer, located near the Sierra Nevadas.  Second Lieutenant Boyd (Guy Pearce), recently and unjustly rewarded for some non-existent bravery, has been assigned to join the small group of soldiers at the Fort.  It is a bizarre collection of individuals – Pvt. Toffler (Jeremy Davies), Pvt. Reich (Neil McDonough), native Indian George (Joseph Runningfox), all led by Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones) – but when a stranger named Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) is unexpectedly found in the cold things get really bizarre.  He leads them from the Fort to the remains of his wagon train…but the remains – bones licked clean – are not what they are expecting. 

Written by Ted Griffin (Ocean’s 11) and based on the story of the Donner Party and that of Alferd Packer, Ravenous is a delicious thriller that borders on the absurd with some of it more comedic twists and turns.  After all, this is the film that opens with two vastly different quotes.  The first is from Friedrich Nietzche: “He that fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster,” and the second from an anonymous source, proclaiming to the audience: “Eat me.”  If this inspires a chuckle from you, then Ravenous is the movie to keep you company on a winter’s night.

Featuring performances from David Arquette and John Spencer, the movie is rich with atmosphere and serves up a striking layer of humor as human flesh is added to soup bowls, unbeknownst to some of the Fort’s guests.  The myth of the wendigo is also added for a hint of authenticity as frontiersmen meet and greet with Native Americans and swap stories of the healing properties of eating human flesh.  Apparently, it cures tuberculosis among other things.   

Loyal to the end of its endless appetite, Ravenous’ theme is rewarded with underplayed scenes that continue to play well in spite of the script whose characters surrender more to the gore than to the overall mood.  You are what you eat after all.

Ravenous - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R for considerable gore and strong violence.
Runtime:
101 mins
Director
: Antonia Bird
Writer:
Ted Griffin
Cast:
Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette
Genre
: Horror | Thriller
Tagline:
Eat Up.
Memorable Movie Quote: "He was licking me!"
Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 19, 1999
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 3, 2014
Synopsis: Captain John Boyd's promotion stations him at a fort where a rescued man tells a disturbing tale of cannibalism.

Ravenous - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 3, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

This 1080p transfer from Shout Factory isn’t as detailed as I’d like it to be.  The image is at times pretty brilliant, sharp and full of detail.  But, there’s a lot of times where it appears a bit blurry (source maybe?) and sort of smudgy looking; the curse of 1990’s filmmaking.  Black levels are pretty solid and mask some detail.  Some background things can lack in detail.  Tone is consistent.  Detail varies as sometimes it has that smooth, kinda smudgy look as I described above.  However, there are times too where you’ll get shots and the facial features are extremely detailed.  Overall it looks nice, but it’s sort of average.  It’s to no fault though, but a lot of films from the 90s have a tendency to turn out this way when they come to Blu-ray.  The score, dialogue and effects are well balanced in this English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are three audio commentaries:  one with director Antonia Bird and composer Damon Albarn.  Another with screenwriter Ted Griffin and actor Jeffrey Jones that is a fun listen.  The third is with a barely talking Robert Carlyle and should be avoided at all costs.

Special Features:

Scream Factory delivers a solid release of Ravenous on Blu-ray.  Kicking off the second month of their four month long “Summer Of Fear”, this title is more of a modern vintage release for them.  The special features get started with a new supplemental feature: an interview with Jeffrey Jones.  Jones has a great passion and good memory on the film.  This is a terrific interview and almost as insightful and educational as it would be from someone who wrote or directed it.  There are some good deleted scenes with optional commentary from Bird to explain why scenes were cut or trimmed.  The bonus designs featurette povides many sketches, designs of characters and places as well as blueprints for building the sets.

  • Interview With Jeffrey Jones (21 min)
  • Deleted Scenes (12 min)
  • Photo Gallery: Costume Design And Production Design (3 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot

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