AskDefine | Define ravenous

Dictionary Definition

ravenous adj
1 extremely hungry; "they were tired and famished for food and sleep"; "a ravenous boy"; "the family was starved and ragged"; "fell into the esurient embrance of a predatory enemy" [syn: famished, sharp-set, starved, esurient]
2 devouring or craving food in great quantities; "edacious vultures"; "a rapacious appetite"; "ravenous as wolves"; "voracious sharks" [syn: edacious, esurient, rapacious, ravening, voracious, wolfish]

User Contributed Dictionary



From ravineus.


  1. Very hungry



Extensive Definition

Ravenous is a 1999 horror/drama film directed by Antonia Bird and starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle and Jeffrey Jones. The film revolves around cannibalism in 1840s California and some elements bear similarities to the story of the Donner Party and that of Alferd Packer. Screenwriter Ted Griffin lists Packer's story, as recounted in a couple of paragraphs of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man, as one of his inspirations for Carlyle's character. The film's darkly humorous and ironic take on its gruesome subject matter have led some to label it a black comedy.


In an opening prologue during the Mexican-American War (18461848), a United States Army officer, Lieutenant Boyd, freezes in battle while his unit is massacred. Playing dead, he manages to infiltrate the Mexican headquarters and, after a moment of bravery, captures them. He is promoted to Captain for his heroism, but his Commanding Officer realizes he is a coward and transfers him to the remote Fort Spencer in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
After Boyd joins the seven other inhabitants of Fort Spencer, a stranger named Colqhoun arrives and describes his wagon train becoming lost in the Sierra Nevadas and being reduced to cannibalism to avoid starvation. The party's guide, a Colonel Ives, had promised the party a shorter route to the Pacific Ocean but instead led them on a more circuitous route, and was then the one to lead their turn to cannibalism. The soldiers stationed at the fort see it as their duty to investigate and search for survivors, so assemble a rescue party. Before they leave they are warned by their Native American scout, George, of the Wendigo myth; a story that a man consuming the flesh of his enemies takes their strength but becomes a demon cursed by a hunger for human flesh.
When they reach the cave where the party had taken refuge they realise that Colqhoun is Ives and has lured them into a trap. He had killed his five companions and sets about killing the soldiers from Fort Spencer one by one, including the commanding officer, Colonel Hart.
Boyd manages to escape the massacre by jumping off a cliff, breaking his leg in the process. He hides in a pit along with the body of a fellow soldier and eventually he eats some of the man's flesh to stay alive. When he finally limps back into the fort he is delirious and severely traumatized; none of the remaining soldiers (who did not meet Colqhoun) believe his wild tale, and a second expedition finds no bodies or any trace of the man. A temporary commander is assigned to the fort and to Boyd's horror it turns out to be Colqhoun, now cleaned up and calling himself Colonel Ives. The others still refuse to believe that Ives is the killer, especially after he bears no sign of the wounds inflicted on him during the massacre. Boyd is suspected of murder after another soldier mysteriously dies and is chained up; he watches helplessly while the last officer is murdered by an unexpected ally of Ives: Colonel Hart, back from the dead after the massacre.
Ives tells Boyd that he used to suffer from Tuberculosis, but when a Native scout told him the Wendigo myth he "just had to try", murdering him, eating his flesh and in the process curing his maladies. Having murdered the expedition he led he now plans to use the fort as a base to do the same to other passing travelers; he compares the location of the fort, with the guaranteed supply of isolated migrants that it entails, with the notion of Manifest Destiny that draws them there.
He saved Hart by feeding him his own comrades (an act that seems to heal all wounds), and now the man is addicted like he is to human meat. Ives wounds Boyd and forces him to make a choice: eat or die. Eventually Boyd gives in and eats a prepared stew made out of the last officer killed, and his wound heals. But rather than join the two men in their conspiracy to convert another superior officer, he convinces Hart to free him so he can kill Ives. Hart does so, but asks Boyd to kill him first as he no longer wants to live as a cannibal. A battle between Boyd and Ives takes place at the climax, with both men wounding each other badly, yet they won't die easily due to their new powers. Finally, Boyd forces Ives onto a large bear trap and springs it, pinning them both together. Ives taunts Boyd by telling him he'll eat him as soon as he dies, but Ives expires first. Boyd refuses to save himself by eating Ives' body and dies on top of his adversary, no longer a coward.
Unfortunately, an arriving officer searching the fort site stumbles on the remains of the human stew Hart and Ives had cooked, and finding the smell appealing, has a taste....



The score for the film was written and performed by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. The score was actually not a collaboration, according to Nyman: "Ravenous was a joint composition in the sense that Damon Albarn composed 60% of the tracks, and I did the rest."
The tracks known to be composed/arranged by Nyman include:
  • Hail Columbia & Noises Off (actually pre-existing arrangements) and Welcome To Fort Spencer. These were written for and performed by Foster's Social Orchestra, a group of non-musician artists Nyman assembled under the inspiration of the Portsmouth Sinfonia.
  • Cannibal Fantasy (on the Ravenous DVD commentary, Albarn attributes Cannibal Fantasy to Nyman).
In addition, the tracks most recognizably in Nyman's (more classical) idiom include:
  • The "Ives" tracks (i.e. Stranger At The Window, Ives Returns, and A Game Of Two Shoulders).
  • Trek To The Cave.
  • Checkmate.
  • Ives Torments Boyd And Kills Knox.
While the only tracks clearly known to be composed by Albarn are "Boyd's Journey" and "Colqhoun's Story" (confirmed on the aforementioned DVD commentary), the following tracks share similar rhythmic and electronic characteristics, based upon looped samples and distortions:
  • He Was Licking Me
  • Let's Go Kill That Bastard
  • The Pit
  • Martha And The Horses
  • Saveoursoulissa
  • Manifest Destiny
In addition, the long track entitled The Cave features many characteristics of Albarn's other tracks while also sampling a sting from Nyman's rejected score to the film Practical Magic. The End Credits track features alternate recordings of Boyd's Journey (Albarn) and Cannibal Fantasy (Nyman).
Individual pieces from the score have shown up in many different movies including:
  • Opening sample of Saveoursoulissa in unaltered form in Magnolia
  • Manifest Destiny banjo riff in Hostel


Box office performance

Ravenous opened on March 19, 1999 in the United States in 1,040 theaters, accumulating $1,040,727 over its opening weekend. It finished eighteenth for the weekend. The film went on to gross $2,062,405 domestically, far less than its reported $12 million budget.

Critical response

Ravenous received mixed reviews from professional critics, somewhat tending toward the negative. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received 41% overall approval out of 34 reviews, and a 40% from the "Cream of the Crop". Roger Ebert, gave Ravenous a better review, rating it 3 stars out of 4 and stating that it was "the kind of movie where you savor the texture of the filmmaking, even when the story strays into shapeless gore".


See also

External links

ravenous in Spanish: Ravenous
ravenous in French: Vorace
ravenous in Hebrew: רעב מוטרף
ravenous in Dutch: Ravenous

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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