Eat or Be Eaten, but Always Be Charming

Halloween is done and dusted, and stores have already stocked themselves with Christmas decorations. Some houses near mine have strung up their nightlights, and one even has a pine tree peeking from the living room window.

I see you there.

But squeezed in between October shenanigans and December festivities is the whole dang month of November, and with it I have a stellar movie recommendation: Ravenous.

Released in 1999 and directed by the late Antonia Bird, Ravenous strikes a perfect mood for those of us looking forward to winter but not quite ready to admit that October is over.

Ravenous is an action-horror-comedy about unwitting cannibals. It’s rated R for several reasons, one being that production relied on so much fake blood they literally ran out.

The two lead actors, Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle, have magnetic chemistry on screen. Pearce plays a mumbling coward who transforms steadily throughout the plot. Carlyle plays the antagonist, sinking into his role of deadly mischief-maker. Watching these two talk is like watching a rabbit fight a fox. Sure, the bunny gets some good kicks in, but the fox never stops smiling at the fun of it all.

I wish I could link the trailer, but in it thar be spoilers. Seriously.

Of all genre combinations, comedy and horror may be the most difficult to pull off well. And I’ve never seen it done like this before. Bird doesn’t hunt for laughs with the campy self-awareness of films like Tucker and Dale Versus Evil or Cabin in the Woods. She doesn’t over-hype the gore like Dead Snow or Zombeavers.

She does her own unique thing, and that’s why it feels important. Under Bird’s direction, repulsive things look appealing and typically pleasant things seem sickly. This discordance is echoed in the music as well. Instead of the score blending into the background, in pivotal scenes it is the brashness and abrasiveness of sound that is given center stage. Interpretations of Anishinaabe and Christian theologies are dancing in the peripheries – there to deepen the plot if you wish, but never requiring it.

The whole experience is a little bit bonkers and a lot of pure charm. Nowhere on screen do you see the troubles experienced during production. Ravenous was weeks into filming when the original director, Milcho Manchevski, was let go. After that, the production rebelled against the second choice for director. Antonia Bird was third choice, thrown into the thick of it with only a single week to prepare, and she absolutely rocked it.

So, before Mariah Carey unleashes her annual ear worm and we shudder at the nutritional content of our eggnog, now is the perfect time to watch this film.