Shootout At High Noon Marathon: Review: Ravenous (1999)

The Shootout At High Noon Marathon comes to an end, almost, with a Western that’s done and turned horrific!

Written By: Ted Griffin
Directed By: Antonia Bird

It was easy for me to get lost in the computer enhanced bluegrass tones of Ravenous. Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn combined forces to create a decidedly unique score. Near the middle of the film when Robert Carlyle begins to show his true colors it was the music that drew me in. More than anything else in the film the music was constantly engaging and appealed to my ear on a technical and entertainment level. As a film Ravenous mostly followed suit, but the caveat of mostly is a rather big caveat when it comes to this movie.

The first half of Ravenous is a compelling curiosity, this is enhanced by the aforementioned score. Much like its lead character, Antonia Bird made a film that had a certain gait to it. Ravenous walked like a Western, it talked like a Western, but it wasn’t truly at home being a Western. In the score, the acting, the writing, and the direction there was another type of movie bubbling under the surface. This created a palpable feeling that is hard to describe. It wasn’t quite full on horror or fear, Ravenous never reached for such base emotions. No, the feeling that I could almost touch with my hands and feel under my skin was that of a wondering dread. For all of the first fifty or so minutes of Ravenous I didn’t know what was going on or what the director intentions were towards these characters. It was a great feeling to have, because on the one hand I was totally engaged in the story, but on the other hand I was deeply admiring the skill that Ms. Bird was displaying on the technical film making front. For the first fifty minutes of Ravenous I was convinced I was watching a masterpiece, a great Western and a great horror movie rolled into one.

A far less odd occurrence took place in the second half of Ravenous. What had been a unique film that was filled to the brim with an underlying sense of doom became a normal horror film. Dread and atmosphere were replaced by normal horror scares and gore. The gore wasn’t handled badly mind you, but it was oh so pedestrian. I went from tilting my head in wonder at omnipresent dread to staring blankly at common horror scenes. It appears as if Ms. Bird decided the bloodier the better would be her mantra for the final acts of Ravenous. For this viewer she chose wrongly, and lost me somewhere along the way. Not even a daring attempt to allegorically associate the cannibalism found in Ravenous with the relentless westward expansion of America could bring me back around, and that’s the type of allegory I really could see myself digging.

It’s disappointing that Ravenous didn’t maintain the tone and atmosphere it built in its first half. But, it’s a really strong first half, in fact I would say that the first half of Ravenous is reason enough for people to see the film. Ravenous may lose its way in its second half, but it’s more common in that time than it is bad. Maybe I should have reigned my enthusiasm in more during the first half, but bravura film making like Ravenous’ first half tends to draw me in. The second half may fall well short of the first, but in my heart of hearts I’m happy to have seen Ravenous. It may not have left me craving for more, but Ravenous did build up a hunger in me, just not for flesh people, I mean c’mon, not even I am that sick!

Read what Edgar had to say at Between The Seats!




One response to “Shootout At High Noon Marathon: Review: Ravenous (1999)

  1. Pingback: Shootout At High Noon Marathon: The Wild Wild West Need Not Apply Awards | Bill's Movie Emporium

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