Ravenous: Special Edition (1999)

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Released 3-Oct-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Audio Commentary-Antonia Bird & Damon Albarn
Audio Commentary-Robert Carlyle (Actor)
Audio Commentary-Ted Griffin & Jeffrey Jones
Deleted Scenes-+/- commentary
Gallery-3
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 96:40
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:17) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Antonia Bird
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Robert Carlyle
Guy Pearce
David Arquette
Jeremy Davies
Jeffrey Jones
John Spencer
Neal McDonough
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Michael Nyman
Damon Albarn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes, mostly cigars
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ravenous is not a movie for the faint-hearted. However, if you are a fan of the black humour of Muggers and don't mind a bit of blood, gore, and the devouring of human flesh, then Ravenous is right up your alley. Although classified as horror, Ravenous is a darkly quirky film with many comedic aspects that make for a very memorable movie experience.

    Ravenous is not a story about man-eating monsters. Rather it is a story of man-eating men with monstrous qualities. With significant influences drawn from vampire myth and werewolf stories, Ravenous tells the tale of the Windigo - an American Indian man of myth that feeds on the flesh of his enemies, stealing their strength, essence, and spirit. The Windigo becomes stronger, heals faster, and hungers more for the flesh of men.

    Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is a fighter in the American-Mexican war of 1847. His troops are beaten and his spirit is broken as he cowers amongst his dead comrades. Playing dead, Boyd is thrown upon a growing pile of dead troopers where he lays almost drowning in the blood of his fellow soldiers. It is at this point where something snaps, he pulls himself free and proceeds to single-handedly capture the enemy outpost.

    Boyd is "rewarded" for his deeds and sent to Fort Spencer, a remote outpost in California. Here Boyd meets his immediate superior, Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones) the unassuming Private Toffler (Jeremy Davies), the hardened soldier Private Reich (Neil McDonough), a pair of Indian workers and other assorted military personnel. Eight people in all, eight people in an isolated Californian fort in 1847...

    Fort Spencer is where Calquhoun (Robert Carlyle), a Scottish servant of God, collapses after days fleeing through the snowy wilderness. Hart, Boyd, and the rest save Calquhoun from certain death from the icy cold, bringing him inside the Fort and warming his chilled body.

    When Calquhoun awakens, he tells a horrid story of himself and his travelling companions being stuck in a cave, snowed in by the terrible storms of the winter. They soon run out of provisions, resorting to digging up roots and eating plants. Their hunger worsens, they eat the horses, oxen and the dog, but this does not last them long. One of the companions dies while Calquhoun is collecting firewood. Upon his return they are cooking his legs. The meat does not last long and Colonel Ives's (their military guide) hunger grows until he goes mad and starts killing Calquhoun's travelling companions, one by one. Calquhoun flees and via sheer providence stumbles upon Fort Spencer.

    The inhabitants of Fort Spencer decide to track down Colonel Ives and bring him to justice. They must face the Windigo, or die. I will leave the plot synopsis here as there are numerous twists and turns that really make the movie, and I would hate to spoil it for you all. Just let it be said that the inhabitants of Fort Spencer are surely in for a surprise as the movie gets very interesting from this point on.

    Ravenous is a savage Horror/Black Comedy that I really enjoyed. It is a movie that grows on me each time I watch it, and having watched it four times before writing this review I feel justified in making this comment. I don't hesitate in recommending this movie - as long as your viewing tastes match those that I described in the opening paragraph. Be warned. "That was very sneaky" - Robert Carlyle.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Ravenous has been afforded a good video transfer, but not outstanding. There is really not a lot to say for or against this transfer. The only real problem is the not-so-good shadow detail.

    The transfer is presented in the 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 2.35:1 at a decent average bitrate of 7.50Mbps.

    Sharpness is good throughout the transfer without taking on a razor sharp quality. Grain is occasionally noticeable in background shots of cloudy skies but never detracts from the quality of the transfer and never impacts upon the clarity of the image. Shadow detail, as mentioned above, is not as good as it should be. This is a minor problem for this transfer as many shots involve darkness or the interior of caves/buildings/holes in the ground. One, of numerous, instances of poor shadow detail can be found around the 5:10 mark. There were no detectable instances of low level noise.

    Colours in this transfer were not remarkable but have been well-rendered. I believe that the colour is deliberately muted to make the stark countryside have greater impact and draw the viewer into the time period. There was no colour bleed or chroma noise throughout the movie.

    There were no apparent instances of any MPEG or film-to-video artefacts throughout the transfer. Numerous sequences involving swords and other sharp implements did not suffer from aliasing - it is refreshing to see a transfer devoid of these problems. There is the usual light scattering of film artefacts which become slightly more noticeable with a few sequences with light coloured backdrop (there aren't many light backgrounds in this film).

    There are many subtitle options on this disc. I viewed the English subtitles and they are quite accurate to the spoken word.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 59:17 between Chapters 15 and 16. The change triggered only a slight pause and was well placed during a scene transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer on this disc is also good. Unfortunately it suffers from the same fate as the video; it has no outstanding features. One exception is the music that matches perfectly the feel of the movie.

    The main audio choice for Ravenous is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack recorded at the lower bit rate of 384Kbps. There are also three Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Commentary tracks recorded at a very low 96Kbps. The low bitrate of the audio commentary tracks was quite apparent in Robert Carlyle's commentary during periods of silence where the volume of the movie audio is increased. Numerous scenes sound quite "tinny" during these periods but the commentaries themselves are still very easy to understand.

    Dialogue was clear throughout without any audio sync problems. Occasionally Toffler's lines were a little hard to hear but this is definitely no fault of the transfer. There is some low level hiss noticeable in the first minute of the movie that fades quite quickly.

    Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn have composed an excellent original score for Ravenous. The score is very different, combining strident chords that are often jarring with a very obvious American Indian theme. The music was perfectly matched to the on-screen action - be it dark humour or terror. I must admit that the score takes a little getting used to but is exceptionally done.

    The surround channels were mostly limited to dramatic effects in action sequences. The score and ambient noises were generally limited to the fronts. The limited provision for the score in the surrounds is surprising but did not detract from the listening experience.

    The subwoofer did not call undue attention to itself merely providing depth to the action when necessary. The score did not really call for any bass support.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is a good selection of extras here, although if you are not a fan of audio commentaries then you will not be as happy.

Menu

    The menu is static and themed around the movie. It is very easy to navigate.

Audio Commentary - Antonia Bird (Director), Damon Albarn (Composer)

    This commentary is quite interesting, although at times it can be frustrating. The frustration comes from Damon Albarn's tendency to talk over the top of Antonia Bird (although she lets him do it), and at times you start to wish he would shut up and let her talk, as she starts to say something interesting and he will jump in and cut her off to talk about his music. Overall, quite a worthwhile commentary however.

Audio Commentary - Robert Carlyle (Actor)

    This is not a full length commentary - it starts from Chapter 4 where Robert Carlyle's character is first introduced. It is a fairly interesting commentary, although there are numerous large gaps where he stops talking. Certainly worth listening to however.

Audio Commentary - Ted Griffin (Writer), Jeffrey Jones (Actor)

    This is a full length commentary, and is quite interesting. It would seem that the original script was much more of a fantasy tale, and it was only budgetary constraints that prevented elaborate tree-top action sequences. In my opinion the movie is better off without them - it gives it more of a gritty realism.

Theatrical Trailer (1:55)

    Presented in letterboxed 1.85:1, and not 16x9 enhanced, the trailer features Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 192 Kbps. As trailers go, this one is quite effective, but also really gives away too much about the ending of the film (although you don't know it while watching the trailer).

Deleted Scenes with optional Director's Commentary (11:35)

    These scenes are presented in 2.35:1, non-16x9 enhanced, and are of a generally lower quality than the rest of the footage. The commentary goes into the reasons as to why the scenes were cut (almost always for pacing reasons). Some of the scenes are quite interesting, but for the most part, the film is better off without these scenes.

Photo Galleries

    There are three galleries presented here, grouped under "Movie Stills" (a collection of freeze frames from the movie), "Costume Design", and "Set Design". These are of little interest, and only seem to be included to extend the list of extras in a "quantity over quality" manner.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Given the lack of 16x9 enhancement on the R1 version of this DVD, I would have to say that the R4 version is the clear winner.

Summary

    Ravenous is a very good, darkly humorous horror film, that will appeal to anyone who likes cult-type films. It is presented on an above average DVD for such a little-seen film.

    While not spectacular, the video quality is very good, presenting an eminently watchable picture.

    As with the video quality, the audio is very good, although not spectacular.

    A very good extras package is presented, especially given the smaller appeal of this film. Those who never listen to commentaries are not well catered for however.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, October 22, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
great film shame about the dvd -