Film review: Ravenous

Gory cannibal tale can't decide what tone to take

Published: Monday, March 29 1999 4:31 p.m. MST

File the genre of cannibal comedies under "Film Ideas That Should Never Be Tried."

Not that such a move would have stopped the makers of "Ravenous," a distasteful and horribly gory man-eater tale that can't decide whether it wants to be a straight horror film or a dark comedy.

And the unsure tone is just one of several problems with this film. Cast members look like they're going to burst into laughter at any moment, and given how bad the screenplay is, who can blame them?

Also, the film is filled with glaring continuity problems, and it seems to have been spliced from at least two different movies. Not that this should be too surprising, since the original director, Yugoslavian filmmaker Milcho Manchevski, was fired midway through production, as Antonia Bird ("Mad Love") was brought aboard at the last minute.

The story is loosely based on the American Indian legend of the Weendigo, a creature that was once a man, and which has gained unearthly powers by eating the flesh of other men.

The embodiment of that legend may be Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle, of "The Full Monty"), a half-starved Scotsman who stumbles into Fort Spencer, a remote way station in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

While the stranger claims that he barely escaped being eaten by his traveling companions, something about his story just doesn't sit right with Capt. John Boyd ("L.A. Confidential's" Guy Pearce), a Mexican-American War hero who has been banished to the outpost.

Boyd decides to investigate, but he and the others aren't prepared for what they find.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers bite off more than they can chew . . . so to speak. The horror elements aren't even slightly scary and the humorous scenes draw fewer laughs than the dramatic moments.

Of course, the over-the-top (dare I say hammy?) performances by Carlyle, Jeremy Davies and David Arquette don't help.

Also, the movie features what has to be the worst movie score of late, an irritating collaboration between Michael Nyman and Blur frontman Damon Albarn, which sounds like a neophyte fiddling around on a computer composition program.

"Ravenous" is rated R for gruesome gore and makeup effects, violent attacks with knifes, guns and other weapons, brief drug use (marijuana), male nudity, use of vulgar expressions and scattered profanities.