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Ravenous (1999)

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In a remote military outpost in the 19th century, Captain John Boyd and his regiment embark on a rescue mission which takes a dark turn when they are ambushed by a sadistic cannibal.


Antonia Bird


Ted Griffin
1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Guy Pearce ... Capt. John Boyd
Robert Carlyle ... Col. Ives / F.W. Colqhoun
David Arquette ... Pvt. Cleaves
Jeremy Davies ... Pvt. Toffler
Jeffrey Jones ... Col. Hart
John Spencer ... Gen. Slauson
Stephen Spinella ... Knox
Neal McDonough ... Pvt. Reich
Joseph Runningfox ... George (as Joseph Running Fox)
Bill Brochtrup ... Lindus
Sheila Tousey ... Martha
Fernando Becerril ... Mexican Commander
Gabriel Berthier Gabriel Berthier ... Mexican Commander
Pedro Altamirano Pedro Altamirano ... Mexican Commander
Joseph Boyle Joseph Boyle ... U.S. Blonde Soldier


Captain John Boyd receives a promotion after defeating the enemy command in a battle of the Mexican-American War, but because the general realizes it was an act of cowardice that got him there, he is given a backhanded promotion to Fort Spencer, where he is third in command. The others at the fort are two Indians, George and his sister, Martha, who came with the place, Chaplain Toffler, Reich, the soldier; Cleaves, a drugged-up cook; and Knox, who is frequently drunk. When a Scottish stranger named Colquhoun appears and recovers from frostbite almost instantly after being bathed, he tells a story about his party leader, Ives, eating members of the party to survive. As part of their duty, they must go up to the cave where this occurred to see if any have survived. Only Martha, Knox, and Cleaves stay behind. George warns that since Colquhoun admits to eating human flesh, he must be a Windigo, a ravenous cannibalistic creature. Written by Scott Hutchins <scottandrewh@home.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Get a taste for terror. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for considerable gore and strong violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



UK | Mexico | USA | Czech Republic


English | Italian | Spanish | Washoe

Release Date:

19 March 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ravenous See more »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,040,727, 21 March 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The part of Martha was originally written as George's brother, rather than his sister. See more »


The orientation of the knife changes between Colonel Hart slamming it into the table and Captain Boyd using it. See more »


Ives: Eat to live. Don't live to eat.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film begins with a famous quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900): "He that fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster." Nietzsche's surname is misspelled as 'Nietzche'. Shortly after, a comedic quote appears below Nietzsche's: "Eat Me" - Anonymous. See more »

Alternate Versions

Finnish video version is cut by 58 seconds. See more »

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User Reviews

Well, this movie is...something...
18 January 2002 | by uglykidmattSee all my reviews

"Ravenous" walks a dangerous line, a fact that's trumpeted right at the top with titles that inspire a shocked, nasty laugh. This picture, about a 19th-century U.S. cavalry officer who runs afoul of super-powered cannibals in a remote outpost in California, aspires to be many things: a gruesome horror flick, a period picture, a black satire, a commentary on the truly depraved ends to which man will sometimes go in order to achieve his often rapacious ends. That's a lot for any one film to put on its plate (pardon the pun), and "Ravenous" admittedly succeeds better at achieving some of its goals than others.

It's 1847, and John Boyd (Guy Pearce) has just been decorated as a Mexican War hero. His heroism was actually based on cowardice and happenstance; he lay down in fear on the battlefield, was taken for dead, and an accidental taste of his fallen comrades' blood roused him to a one-man counterattack. Boyd the hero is a fraud. His commander knows it, and sends him where he thinks he'll do the least damage. This is Fort Spencer, where a ragtag band of troops wait to guide new settlers to the Nevadas. One night, a depraved, near-naked man arrives at the fort. His name is Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle), and he has a grim story to tell, a story of a trapped traveling party and the extreme means they adopted to survive their three months of imprisonment in a mountain cave. The soldiers set out to find any survivors, but Colqhoun soon reveals his true colors. He is possessed by the spell of the wendigo, a Native American myth by which the consumption of human flesh imbues one with superhuman powers. The monstrous Colqhoun targets the men, especially Boyd, to join him in creating an army of cannibal supermen who will realize Manifest Destiny...with a vengeance. Those who don't comply...well, a man's gotta eat.

This description may make "Ravenous" sound like a Saturday-matinee trashfest, but Ted Griffin's screenplay is surprisingly ambitious. He makes Colqhoun's taste for flesh mirror his desire for power, and by setting the film at an outpost on territory acquired by the U.S. in a war against its Mexican natives (an outpost, I might add, maintained for the white soldiers by Indians), it reminds us that the American Dream has often been won by the blood of others whose own dreams were snuffed out. Heady stuff, made all the more potent by its inspiration in the Donner Party tragedy, a real-life story of people who came to America seeking their dreams...and finding only a nightmare.

Still, this is all subtext. How does "Ravenous" play on the surface? Well, it blows hot and cold. The cast does competent work, and director Antonia Byrd milks the big moments of action for all they're worth. The film has a nice, authentic look, with cold-parched rocks and the rickety fort invading the serenity of the wilderness. Michael Nyman collaborates with Damian Albarn on a bizarrely effective score that sounds like a mix of sea shantey and the "Friday the 13th" theme played on banjo and squeeze box. Even the moments of gore are well-handled, giving us suggestive (though really very graphic) glimpses of atrocities that help to build Colqhoun's villainous status in our minds.

I think the film's one real mistake is the inclusion of too many ill- conceived attempts at humor. They work when they're kept pitch-black (like the stomach-turning banquet that opens the film), but when the fort's second in command, Knox (Stephen Spinella) is stumbling around drunk half the time and Private Cleaves (David Arquette) is stoned whenever Knox isn't drunk, it's just distracting. I think that if played a little more straight, with the humorous asides saved for when they're most inappropriate, Byrd and Griffin might have had a morbid little masterpiece on their hands.

As it stands, "Ravenous" is a perfectly respectable entertainment. It's a good-looking, generally well-made film that serves up plenty of action, amusing moments, and just enough thematic depth to provide something meaty to digest on the way back to the video store.

Again, pardon the pun.

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