David Arquette


Ravenous-1999-movie-5Ravenous has a lot of black comedy elements that I missed when I saw it in theaters back in 1999. It’s strange what seventeen years can do to your perspective. Regardless Ravenous is a great film no matter how you cut and didn’t deserve the large amount of negative reviews it got upon its release. The black comedy and satirical elements are laid on a bit thick in place, but it’s those elements that’s really made Ravenous hold up over time. That and it’s loosely based on elements of both the Donner Party and Alferd Packer. Also, while Ravenous is supposedly a film about cannibalism, I would argue it’s more of creature feature with the Wendigo being the monster in question due to the strong supernatural element. Because as far as I know eating the flesh of another human doesn’t give you special abilities, like being able to heal from any wound.

After winning a medal and getting a promotion during a battle during the Mexican-American War, John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is sent away to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevada’s.  This is due to his winning of the medal in question as from actions born of cowardice, but not wanting to set a bad example. So rather than punish him, the military leaders simply shuffled him away. At the outpost he meets the skeleton crew that mans the outpost during the harsh winters, Col. Hart (Jeffery Jones), Pvt. Toffler (Jeremy Davies), Pvt. Cleaves (David Arquette), Pvt. Reich (Neal McDonough), Knox (Stephen Spinella), a Native American Scout George (Joseph Runningfox) and his sister Martha (Sheila Tousey). Short after arriving at the outpost the company discovers a man in the cold. After waking the man, Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) tells them his story. That he along with five others, including their leader Col. Ives had gotten lost crossing the Rockies three months prior. After running out of provisions they had resorted to Cannibalism, though after doing so their hungers changed becoming insatiable. After being reduced to being one of the last three alive, he had fled out of fear and had found the outpost by pure providence. After hearing his story, Col Hart gathers most of his men, as Martha and Pvt. Cleaves are away on a supply mission and Knox being to drunk to be of any use, heads out to rescue those they can. Before they leave, they’re warned by George of the Wendigo, a demon born when a man eats the flesh of another man and absorbs his strength, but gains an insatiable hunger for human flesh. When they arrive the at the camp site located in a cave, Boyd and Reich enter the cave to see if anyone is left alive. Inside they discover the remains of five people, and rush back to the others to warn them of the trap. Outside Colqhoun falls upon the resuce party, killing them one by one. When Boyd and Reich leave the cave, everyone is already killed and chase Colqhoun into the woods. Though once again falling into his trap as Reich is killed and falls off a cliff. A cliff that Boyd leaps from to escape Colqhoun after shooting him doesn’t stop him. The fall breaks on of his legs and Boyd becomes trapped in hole with Reich’s body. Eventually Boyd is reduced to eating Reich and after gain his strength resets his broken leg and makes his way back to the outpost traumatized. After telling his story and no one believing him and a new leader is sent to the outpost a Col. Ives, Colqhoun in disguise….

What always stuck with me was the scene of Pvt. Reich toughens up in a snowy river. At least that’s what I always assumed he was doing, that and the scene where he gets eaten. Both stuck out too much just as much after all these years. Though this time around I noticed how small a role all the supporting casts plays, with very little screen time. Most only around long enough to a vague idea of who they are before they get killed off half way through the film.

What also stuck out this time around was Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. As both men come off as layered and very interesting. Mainly on how the two play off one another throughout the film. Represent two different outlooks on being a cannibal. With Pearce being forlorn and regretful in his performance and Carlyle comes of crazed, but also methodical and controlled.

The musical score also really stands out now that I’m old enough to really notice it. I find it amazing for how long I just took the musical scores in films for granted and I’m really sad that I didn’t remember this film for its outstanding music.

Final thoughts, Ravenous is a great film that’s well shot and beautifully scored. Though it does have a handful of flaws. Although all are so minor I don’t feel the need to point them out. The performances are fun and memorable. Though while the film is dark and it handles its subject matter with too much of a humorous edge to be truly unnerving. 9/10


Eight Legged Freaks

eight_legged_freaksLearning that Eight Legged Freaks was released in 2002 has me feeling more than a little dated. I remember watching this film with one of my close friends when it was released on DVD, actually come to think of it. I think the first time I saw this film was on VHS…  Anyway after not seeing it since, I figured after a decade, it would be like seeing it again for the first time. Well, yes and no. Yes in the fact that I had forgotten enough of this film that it was enjoyable. But I retained enough that I wasn’t surprised that much, since I only forgot a handful of things. First how awesome the character Gladys is, and that Scarlett Johansson is in this film.

The film opens in classic giant monster film fashion, with a barrel of chemicals falling off a truck and contaminating a local water source. A week later, Joshua (Tom Noonan), the local weirdo who collects rare and exotic spiders for his spider farm gathers crickets from around the contaminated water source, where the barrel of chemicals has come to rest. Joshua’s visited at his spider farm by Mike (Scott Terra), the son of the town sheriff Samantha Parker (Kari Wuhrer). Joshua gives Mike a short tour of his extensive collection of spiders. Which includes Jumping Spiders, Tarantulas, Trapdoor Spiders, and Orb-Weavers. Both male and female and the prize of his collection. Mike notices that all of Joshua’s spiders are unusually large, to which Joshua explains that he’s been feeding them the chemically tainted crickets that he’s caught and plans on selling due to their ability to make the spiders grow. After Mike leaves he’s attacked by one of his spiders and since there wouldn’t much of a film without them, Joshua freaks out flailing around and breaking open all of the spiders containers in the process. Mike gets caught by his mother on his way home from Joshua’s as she and her deputy Pete Willis (Rick Overton), fish the barrel of chemicals out of the water. Since Samantha disapproves of her son visiting Joshua. She also rounds up her daughter Ashley (Scarlett Johannson) on the way home catching her on riding on the back of her boyfriend Brett’s (Matt Czuchry) motorcycle. A week later… again, Chris McCormick (David Arquette) returns to town after the death of his father and inheriting the mines. Even though the town is dying and has a chance to sell, Chris is unwilling to do so. As his father claimed to have found gold in the mines and Chris aims to find it. This causes tension within the town as a sizable portion, lead by the town mayor Wade (Leon Rippy) want to sell. With the encouragement of his Aunt Gladys (Eileen Ryan). Chris also tries to restart his past romance with Samantha. But finds it hard to so when the town is beset by Joshua’s spiders which have grown massive and come out of the mines to feed…

Fist off, I was surprised with just how well this movie aged. Which is surprising since it’s got a couple of pop culture references. Though since I am of that era, maybe it just seems less dated than it actually is. What really helps is how cheesy Eight Legged Freaks is. The actors all amp up the silly without going so overboard that it loses sight that this is supposed to be a horror movie.

Not to say that this film’s age doesn’t show. Because it does, it really does. But mainly only in regards to the CGI effects for the spiders, which is actually OK. Since it matches the feel of the movie, which is cheesy. Fine, highbrow cinema Eight Legged Freaks is not. There are only a handful of scenes where the CGI is truly painful to watch and this is during action scenes with the jumping spiders.

What really sells this movie for me is the characters, mainly Gladys because I just found her super endearing. But also the Sheriff Samantha who’s attractive, but the film never touts her sexuality and she’s shown as being strong and capable. It’s nice to see a female character where sex isn’t her main selling point. In fact her looks are brought up once rarely and the only time it stands out it’s by a group of teenage boys were meant to dislike. Current filmmakers could learn some things from 2002 it looks like. Another character that’s simply great is Harlan played by Doug E. Doug, who makes the crazy, conspiracy theorist Radio DJ work. All while being simply hilarious.

Final thoughts, Eight Legged Freaks is a good blend of horror and comedy, that manages to stay kid friendly. I loved the strong female characters as well as the callbacks to the giant insect films of the 1950’s. Eight Legged Freaks is a film that’s fun, but not one that I would necessarily call scary and is best viewed with friends who like to poke fun at this kind of film. 8/10