“Ravenous” takes us back to 1847, where a newly-promoted Captain, John Boyd (Guy Pearce), has been sent to a remote outpost after being honored as a hero during a battle of the Mexican-American War. We quickly learn that his act of heroism actually began as an act of cowardice, with his capture of the enemy command center only being successful after trying to play dead and escape being killed or taken prisoner. With the shame and stress of the traumatic situation he endured, he must soldier on as he acclimates to his new post. Not long after he arrives however, a man by the name of Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle), stumbles into their post and tells them of his horrific journey that had his party resorting to cannibalism to stay alive. He also mentions that there are still survivors in a cave a few days away, which leads the post commander, Col. Hart (Jeffrey Jones), to send a rescue party that includes himself, Boyd, and Colqhoun. What they find in the cave reveals a different story than what Colqhoun told them, setting off a sudden and bloody encounter.
“Ravenous” is a film with a lot of potential that never ends up utilizing it. It presents a perfectly tense situation with many opportunities for thrills and chills, but instead, it only manages to build up a sense of tedium as it drags on and on without taking advantage of the premise. Much of this issue stems from a bland screenplay by Ted Griffin, who doesn’t seem to know how to insert the suspense necessary for a film like this to work, leading to a film that is dull and unengaging. It’s rather interesting to note that the film went through a very troubled production. Not only did the director get changed twice, but there were also constant rewrites going on, and the filming conditions were apparently terrible, so it’s quite possible that all of this combined resulted in the flat final product. Whatever the reason behind its failure was, “Ravenous” ends up having no bite to it, nothing to grab the audience and make them care about what’s going to happen to the characters. When all one can muster up for a film like this is indifference, then you know something’s gone terribly wrong.
“Ravenous” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Shout! Factory is well-known for putting a lot of time and effort into their restorations, and this release is no exception. For the most part, it’s a dark and dreary film, but the picture is always perfectly clear and sharp. In addition, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you every little sound loud and clear from the dialogue to the score, making for an optimal experience in both areas.
Commentary with Director Antonia Bird and Composer Damon Albarn: A bizarre pairing for a commentary that has it abruptly shifting from behind the scenes info on the making of the film to info about the score. The former is by far the more interesting part, which merely makes you wish that the director had been allowed to do a solo track.
Commentary with Screenwriter Ted Griffin and Actor Jeffrey Jones: A pretty good track that has Griffin and Jones discussing the making of the film, including its various production troubles.
Commentary with Actor Robert Carlyle: One of the strangest commentary tracks I’ve come across is this one featuring the actor who portrayed Colqhoun. He doesn’t even start until several minutes into the movie, and even then he only talks intermittently. This is an easily skippable track, especially given that he never says anything interesting or informative.
Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Antonia Bird: About 12 minutes of deleted scenes that add nothing to the movie, so they’re not really worth watching. It should be noted that these scenes are in far worse quality than the film itself, with shoddy looking video and poor audio.
Two Still Galleries – Costume Design and Production Design: A pair of galleries that give you several sketches for costumes and sets. Worth a quick run-through.
“Ravenous” could have turned out to be much more than what it ended up becoming, but thanks to an inability to take advantage of its creepy premise and numerous chances for edge-of-your-seat tension, all we get is a monotonous, forgettable, and worst of all, boring horror film that represents a pretty big missed opportunity.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Stalingrad, The Monuments Men, Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill, Grand Piano, Her, Orange is the New Black: Season One, I, Frankenstein, Final Exam, Evilspeak, Star Trek: Enterprise – Season Four, The Legend of Hercules, Dead Shadows, Sorcerer, Copperhead, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Best of Bogart Collection, Beneath, American Hustle
Now playing in theaters: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.