The best, and only, novel I’ve ever read about the Wendigo myth is “Where The Chill Waits” by T. Chris Martindale, and the only reason I read it was about a decade or so ago director Stuart Gordon was slated to direct a movie vesion of it. I also believe there was an episode of Fear Itself (aka Masters Of Horror Season 3) about a wendigo titled, “Skin And Bones.”
Aside from the one I’m reviewing here, the only other movie I’m aware of that deals with this Native American myth is Larry Fessenden’s 2002 flick, Wendigo, which I saw and wasn’t all that taken with. The myth is ripe for novelization and movies but I have yet to see one I like. I have a feeling, though, that “Skin And Bones” episode might be a contender.
I can just tell at some point the makers of Ravenous (1999) probably debated on what angle to take with the movie: make it a creature feature or do something more subtle with the myth. They went with the latter and while the myth itself I find infinitely interesting I would have preferred something more creature-laden.
Guy Pierce plays Captain John Boyd who gets decorated for taking the enemies base single-handed during the Mexican-American, but he’s no hero. His fear got the best of him and he played dead during the heat of combat and this was how he made it past enemy lines. He can’t even stand the sight of blood.
His “cowardly act” is found out and he’s “demoted” in a sense to a way station fort in the Sierra Nevada region but as luck would have it they get a second visitor, this one unplanned and in the form of Robert Carlyle who’s half dead. He tells them his tale of bloody woe where his trip across the state did not go as planned. A supposedly shorter route that was chosen by this scummy, Colonel Ives got every one into trouble, the kind of trouble that had them holed up in a cave wondering where their next meal was coming from. To stave off death by undernourishment they ate the dead, then went after the living, with this Ives being last cannibal standing. Colqhoun (pronounced cal-hoon) (aka Carlyle) managed to make it out alive. But there’s supposed to be a woman and Ives left alive in this cave. Well, they can’t just leave them there. Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones) takes his winter’s skeleton crew on a trek to rescue them.
It’s here at the cave they learn it’s all a trap. Calqhoun is really Ives and he slaughters Hart’s group with Boyed jumping off a cliff to save himself from being eaten. But he’s wounded with one of his now dead compatriots and resorts to eating the man to stay alive. Now he and Ives are the same. Both are Wendigo (pronounced Win-digo in the movie), this means they are cursed with the unquenchable thirst to keep eating human flesh, but on the upside their new state of being allows them to heal rapidly from any wound. Only way to cure oneself of being Wendigo is death.
The rest of the movie is about Boyd trying to do the right thing for once and not eat people, while Ives wants to recruit him and use the fort as a means to get more flesh.
Ravenous’s ending is not pretty but bloody and expected.
20th Century Fox put this movie out twice on DVD, once in 1999 and once in 2005, both loaded with extra features (3 Commentary Tracks: Director Antonia Bird and Composer Damon Albarn; Actor Robert Carlyle; Screenwriter Ted Griffin and Actor Jeffrey Jones, Deleted Scenes, Deleted Scene with Commentary by Antonia Bird, Photo Galleries and Production Stills, TV Spot, Theatrical Trailer). Now that Scream Factory (Shout! Factory’s horror sub-label) has gotten the rights to the movie it’s being released on June 3 for the first time on blu-ray and with all those extras ported over.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen high definition—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio/2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio/Music And Effects Only Audio—English subtitles. Picture quality and audio were superb; I didn’t have a problem with either.
The only new extra added is an Interview With Actor Jeffrey Jones (The Ravenous Tales Of Colonel Hart, 20:42). Jones talks about the production problems the film had as the original director was fired 2 weeks into production, the movie’s historical backdrop, his character and how the film changed when Bird took over as director.
I was surprised that this has quite a following among fans and collectors. It’s not a bad movie, it’s got great locations/scenery and top-notch acting from all involved, but it personally isn’t a flick I could watch repeatedly.