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A shell-shocked veteran of the Spanish-American war (Guy Pierce, adept at exposing the quivering marrow within) is rewarded for his questionable heroism by being relocated to a remote mountain outpost. Hot on the heels of his arrival is the discovery of a half-dead missionary (Robert Carlyle) with some very peculiar appetites. What follows is Ravenous (1999), a horror/comedy high-wire act almost beyond description, touching on such disparate topics as Manifest Destiny and the Donner Party, and loaded with enough close-up grue to make Ted Nugent a vegan. Such is the film's crazed full-tilt conviction that it manages to survive a major tonal shift between backwoods and urbane villainy (to get an idea of the precariousness of this conceit, imagine if Leatherface had suddenly unzipped his apron and emerged as Hannibal Lecter), before climaxing with a mano a mano finale on a scale not seen since Godzilla fought Kong. Complete insanity must be respected. Director Antonia Bird came to this troubled-from-the-get-go production late in the game, but managed to locate moments of actual character within all the rampant cannibalistic absurdity, making even the perennially hop-headed David Arquette likable enough that we don't especially want to see him get eaten. She also creates a tangible sense of frigid desolation that simultaneously grounds and strengthens the entire shebang. Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn's majestically gonzo score, which suggests an infinite number of monkeys run amuck in the recording studio, provides the finishing daft dollop. Ravenous performed a predictably swift nose-dive at the box office, but Fox admirably pulled out all the stops for its jam-packed DVD, presented in gorgeous anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Special features include the woefully misleading theatrical trailer (spare a few moments sympathy for the oft-beleaguered PR folks, though: How exactly would you market this hootenanny?), a design gallery, deleted scenes, and television spots. Rounding out the full-meal deal are separate commentary tracks by director Bird and co-composer Albarn (veddy British, and sadly more than a little dull), Robert Carlyle (fascinating but sparse), and writer Ted Griffin and co-star Jeffery Jones, who manage to be genially entertaining while touching on all of this seemingly cursed project's various mishaps. Put simply, this is one of the damnedest things you're ever likely to see. Keep-case.
—Andrew Wright

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