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(Part 9 Of An Ongoing Series)

Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.

Socrates

Eat or die.

Colonel Ives (Robert Carlyle), Ravenous

Aside from being one of the most under-appreciated 1999 movies, Antonia Bird’s Ravenous is that fiendish breed of scary story that preys on our fears of both the natural and supernatural.  Drawing from the classic American horror legends of The Donner Party, Alferd Packer, and The Wendigo, the Ted Griffin-penned film has a whole lot of morbid fun with the idea that certain transgressions- in this case, cannibalism- might make us subhuman as well as superhuman.

It’s certainly not a flick for sensitive stomachs, and by mainstream-1999 standards, it may have been absurdly bloody.  But in 2012, considering how much gut-feasting one could watch every week in basic-cable prime time on The Walking Dead, Ravenous feels quite restrained.  Like most great horror, it leaves much of the gory details to the imagination.

Yet Ravenous is far more than carnage and terror, which is a big reason why it holds up so well.  The meat is a complicated, soul-wrenching tale that ventures into a twisted realm beyond good and evil.  What makes Ravenous so deliciously 1999, though, is its wicked irreverence.  While that attitude may be slathered on a bit too thick in the opening, it becomes contagious by the second act, as Robert Carlyle’s sick, desperate laughter starts.  Like our troubled hero, Guy Pearce’s Lieutenant Boyd, we’re constantly seduced and repulsed, hungry to soldier on, yet fearful we’ll be irredeemably corrupted.

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