Fifteen years ago, a macabre and original horror movie obliterated genre conventions and got pretty much zero credit for it. Abandoned by its studio, panned by critics, and ignored by audiences, Ravenous (1999, 1 hr., 41 mins., R) has nonetheless slow-cooked into a cult dish — a fitting destiny for a film that espouses the curative powers of human flesh. Set in Northern California, 1847, the film stars Guy Pearce (Memento) as a military captain who encounters a famished stranger (the smirking Full Monty star Robert Carlyle) who has just escaped from a snowbound pioneer group that resorted to eating one another.
From there, Ravenous embarks on dangerous, unpredictable paths, breast-stroking through geysers of gore as the bodies pile up on the dining-room table, each served with a delectable side of gallows humor. Sample dialogue: ”He was tough, but then, a good soldier ought to be.” Director Antonia Bird (Priest), who never made another feature film before her death in 2013, stuffs the screen with sumptuous images of savagery and elevates the lusty, sinful appetites of its male characters into a metaphor for American hubris and gluttony. The soundtrack by Michael Nyman (The Piano) and Damon Albarn of Blur — itself a quiet cult phenom — is a spooky concoction of banjos and violins that blend with the movie’s dark sarcasm. In an age of fast-food horror films, Ravenous is that rare and well-seasoned meal that leaves you hungry for more. Eat it up. A