Phong had seen Ravenous before our feature showing, so he brought in a short to whet our appetites — technically three shorts — which go under the general name of “Lloyd’s Lunchbox”. Mercifully, I can find no IMDB entry for good old Lloyd, saving you a click. The Lloyd’s Lunchbox saga follows a very ugly man drawn in very jumpy animation as he attempts to find new and creative ways to dismember himself, all of which seem to go even worse than he had planned. (The idea that any of it was planned may be giving a bit too much credit — he doesn’t really seem awfully bright.)
All told, I think we get to see Lloyd get himself all bloody about 15-20 different ways, most of which were groan inducing and only a few of which involved Lloyd intentionally sticking a pencil into various facial orifices, or knives underneath his fingernails. Just like Itchy and Scratchy, though, after each mutilation Lloyd comes back good as new and ready for more. Some folks even said that they thought Lloyd’s antics were worse than what came next — which I think was the point.
The feature presentation was Ravenous, a 1999 flick by Antonia Bird. Ravenous turns out to be a strange hybrid between Alive and Interview With The Vampire and Brewster’s Millions. Brewster’s Millions you say? Well, OK, that’s a real stretch. But the genesis of the movie would make a lot more sense if Ms. Bird had inherited a good screenwriter and a massive quantity of fake movie blood under the condition that she couldn’t have the screenwriter unless she was able to use all the fake movie blood in one month. Judging from her IMDB entries after Ravenous, she might have had some blood left over.
Guy Pearce plays the vegetarian but cannibal-curious Lieutenant Boyd, who is rewarded for his exploits behind enemy lines in the Mexican-American War by being sent off to a desolate outpost somewhere in the high sierra of California. It seems that rather than valorous, his actions were mostly cowardly — he froze in battle, played dead, and was carted off with the rest of the corpses by the Mexican Army, who were doing their good Christian duty in cleaning up after themselves following a massacre. But, with some of his own commanding officer’s blood flowing across his face, Boyd found the courage to burst out of the corpse cart and inflict heavy losses in the Mexican camp. The U.S. Army actually knew the details, but since shooting him for infiltrating the enemy camp would set a bad precedent, they gave him a medal and a one-way ticket to the boondocks.
Boyd joins a group of misfits that includes the very bored Colonel Hart, played by Jeffrey Jones, and some local Native Americans who seem a bit over-fixated on the “Wendigo” story (wherein cannibals gain remarkable strength but a taste for human flesh so insatiable that it can only be satisfied by death), especially considering that it was an Algonquin myth to start with. Who knows, maybe they had cousins in New England. Not to disappoint, a raving man calling himself Calhoun (mysteriously spelled “Colqhoun”) shows up in a snowstorm with a story about how he has escaped a mini-Donner-style buffet served up by his party’s guide, Colonel Ives, and under the pretense that one woman in the party has been saved for dessert he leads the majority of the outpost’s men (about five) to the cave where it all went down. Along the way, Calhoun ends up getting caught licking the blood off of somebody’s fresh wound and a bit too eagerly admits he’s not to be trusted, allowing himself to be tied up in order that the party continues on to the trap scene of the crime.
Surprise! It turns out that Calhoun was the one that ate all the other people! With a combination of his massive superhuman strength and healing abilities (that human flesh is sure good for what ails you!) along with some guile and some luck, he manages to separate and kill (most of) the party, taking at least one gunshot along the way. Boyd, as the presumed final survivor, leaps off a cliff rather than succumb to Calhoun and his Uruguayan rugby team tactics, miraculously survives (the branches broke his fall) and ends up in some sort of forest pit with one compound fracture of the tibia and one dead partymate to accompany him. After a few days of not freezing to death, Boyd resorts to eating his pal, finds his superhuman strength, and walks back to the outpost despite having an extra joint below the right knee.
With Colonel Hart dead, the Army assigns a new commanding officer to the outpost — one (dun-dun-DUNN!) Colonel Ives, who just happens to be Calhoun. (It’s not clear which identity is true, whether it’s really Ives or if Calhoun is sucessfully passing himself off, but it doesn’t much matter.) Since there’s nobody actually left who ever saw Calhoun the first time around, everybody thinks Boyd is crying cannibal when he tries to warn them. Needless to say, they should have all listened as Ives/Calhoun has been stealthily accompanied by fresh cannibal recruit Colonel Hart (not dead, and fed back to strength by Ives-houn) and together they take care of the last remnants of non-cannibals at the outpost. Here is where the whole Interview With The Vampire vibe comes through, as Ives-houn and now Hart are now actively playing the “recruit other people into the cannibal club” game. As Hart says, “It’s lonely being a cannibal. Tough making friends.” But unlike vampires, who can recruit by simply biting, cannibals must recruit via feeding, and since there weren’t any stomach tubes around, the two unrepentant cannibals simply gore our hero (the not-quite-cannibal-yet) and threaten to let him die unless he eats some tasty panacea stew. Finally Boyd relents and joins the ranks of the cannibals.
But wouldn’t you know it, he stills holds a moralistic grudge over his cannibal converter, and after slitting the schizophrenic Hart’s throat (he inexplicably went from singing the cannibal anthem to having so much remorse that he asked to be put out of his misery in about ten seconds — TEN SECONDS — of screen time) it’s time for a Boyd/Ives-houn death match. Through a bit of clever planning, Boyd manages to pull off the “one bear trap, two kills” maneuver first thought up by Tom Berenger and Billy Zane in Sniper, and the movie ends with a pointless but mercifully short denouement.
To sum up: blood, cannibals, suspension of disbelief, blood, and blood. And it’s got some entertainment value, but on the whole it’s a bit weak.