Ravenous (Blu-ray Review)

RavenousKicking off the second month of Scream Factory’s four month long “Summer Of Fear” is the 1999 film Ravenous.  This is a pretty big new chapter for Scream Factory as the delve into a later decade in the annals of horror’s past.  This is more of a modern vintage release for them.  Besides Scanners II/III, I think this is their only 90s release and its coming from the most latter part of the decade.  Ravenous is definitely a cult classic.  This film bombed pretty hard upon release.  It didn’t open in the top ten in wide release, and barely made the top twenty when it came out (#18).  The film only managed two million dollars on a twelve million budget.  Yeah, that’s pretty much a bomb.  It came out in what looks like a pretty loaded spring 1999.  But, those who actually gave the movie a chance (likely on home video), loved it and thus a new cult item was minted.

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The film is set during the Mexican-American War.  After an act of bravery is discovered to actually be luck achieved through a form of cowardice, Captain John Boyd is “promoted” to the rather empty For Spencer.  Once settled, an estranged man named Colqhoun is found.  Once nursed to health he tells the tale of his group being led astray to the Sierras by a Colonel Ives.  They were forced into vicious cannibalism and Colqhoun is sure he is the only survivor.  The inhabitants of Fort Spencer decide to take Coqhoun back to the site of where this all happened to see if there are any survivors.  On their way out, their scout warns them of a Wendigo myth of a man eating human flesh and healing and gaining strength from those he consumes.

So, I’ll admit when I first saw Ravenous when it came to video, I thought it was pretty good and enjoyed it.  But, I never went back to it.  When it got announced, I was excited to revisit the film.  And boy, I really did enjoy myself quite a bit with this film that maybe my younger self didn’t quite fully get.  This is a unique dark comedy and one of the best films focusing on cannibalism ever made.  This is one of those films that didn’t make an impact when it arrived and seriously begs for those who missed it or passed on it to give it a second look.

One thing I marveled at with this movie is how the style, patience and craft of it is sort of a lost art.  And within just a couple years after it came out, a movie like this probably could have never been made the way it is here.  I love the ambiguity of the healing.   If this movie had been today it would almost be demanded that we see a scene of Robert Carlyle, Guy Pearce or Jeffrey Jones eating flesh and have some CG effects demonstrating wounds being healed like they are Wolverine or something of the like.  Nope, here we get practical effects and these things just sort of happen.  Maybe it was a budgetary or time constraint (this production did have some troubles as the director was canned two weeks in and the entire film almost go scrapped as a result).  I have to give it to Antonia Bird for the way she presents the story and executes it with patience, fun and bloody detailed.

Since the film got passed over back in the day, I’m sure this wonderful score did too.  I really like how sort of out of place with the time period, yet almost of modern take on that period it feels like.  I especially like the scoring during the scene where Boyd is going on his trip back to Fort Spence after the big revelation happens.  This is definitely a well scored movie as well as a uniquely scored one, and to reward that, there is a bonus feature with the isolated score track.  I supposed since that is there, it definitely has appreciators then.

There’s a terrific handful of male character actors in this film as well that seem to be having a blast working together on this.  Robert Carlyle was definitely at the height of his popularity during this time.  Later in the year he would be playing a Bond villain.  This was during a time where his name was popping up in casting calls for just about any movie.  I have always been a big big Guy Pearce fan and he’s terrific in this and not afraid to plays some things big.  The great thing is that its a dark comedy and all the actors really relish in the material and seem to have a full and complete understanding of how to pull it all off.

I had a ton of fun with Ravenous.  Its a dark and at the same time, playful movie.  It pulls you in, gives you laughs, makes you tense up and really keeps you engaged on a central mystery as well.  Its on of those films that really runs a full gamut of all the great qualities one genre can offer.  While a sort of troubled production, none of it shows at all.  Ravenous is now a film I am easily going to find myself going back to again and again.  Who would have thought a bloody movie about cannibalism could be so much fun?

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Encoding:  MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1

Clarity/Detail:  This picture wasn’t as detailed as I’d have liked 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.  Some backround things can lack in detail as well.  Overall it looks nice, but its sort of average.  Its 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.

Depth:  The depth here is rather average.  There’s some decent work in the mountains and in the cavern, but for the most part its ok.

Black Levels:  Black levels are pretty solid and mask some detail.

Color Reproduction:  The feature doesn’t have a very bright palette, but what is provided is solid with a slightly flat appearance.

Flesh Tones:  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.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a solid and welcome layer of grain.  At like 2 instances there was a film marking or spec present.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  The score, dialogue and effects are well balanced in this track.  This is a great, natural sounding mix that gives a full effect and has a great sense of environment.

Low Frequency Extension:  Impact moments (landing, scuffling) and gunshots and the like are felt.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There is some good moments when traveling in the mountains and during some hallucinatory moments.  Also, some good ambiance is provided to add to the environment as well as a muted duplication of the score.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean, crisp and set to a good volume in the mix.  There was one moment that Carlyle’s voice peaked, but it sounded like it was in the source.

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Ravenous’ cover art is reversible, allowing you to use the film’s original poster artwork for display.  Most of the features are ported over from previous releases.

Audio Commentary With Director Antonia Bird And Composer Damon Albarn – From a previous release, director and composer discuss their aspect of making the film.  Antonia Bird pretty much leads the conversation and provides a great look at her involvement and passion in the project.

Audio Commentary With Screenwriter Ted Griffin And Actor Jeffrey Jones – Another ported commentary track.  This one has a knowledgeable and fun insight from the film’s screenwriter and actor Jeffrey Jones.

Audio Commentary With Robert Carlyle – A third ported commentary.  This one is pretty useless as Carlyle barely talks or provides much insight.  There are also big gaps in between him speaking.  In fact, he doesn’t start talking until about 15 minutes in.  I thought there might have been a mistake on the disc as it took me quite a while to find him and where his commentary started.  Skip it.

Music And Effects Only – A track featuring the score I boasted about as well as the sound effects.

Interview With Jeffrey Jones (HD, 20:42) – I think this is the only new feature on the disc.  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.  This is also the first time I think I’ve seen him in anything since his arrest back in 2003.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 12:06)

Deleted Scenes With Commentary (HD, 12:06) – Antonia Bird provides the commentary as to why things were cut or altered.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:00)

TV Spot (HD, :32)

Photo Gallery: Costume Design And Production Design (HD, 2:47) – Provides many sketches, designs of characters and places as well as blueprints for building the sets.

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Scream Factory delivers a solid release of Ravenous on Blu-ray.  It features a slightly above average video transfer with a pretty good audio track.  It features multiple commentaries as well as a really good interview with Jeffrey Jones.  The most important aspect of this all?  Ravenous is on freakin’ Blu-ray and it looks the best it ever has.  This release should please fans and hopefully bring on some news ones or convert naysayers of the indifferent folks who haven’t seen the film in many years.  Its a no-brainer to add to your collection!



2 Responses to “Ravenous (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I love Ravenous. So excited for a Blu-ray of it!

  2. Brian White

    I never caught this one back in the day, but I need to remedy that.