A tale of a man faced with the prospect of becoming what — and who — he eats, RAVENOUS had its origins in an actual historical event: the Donner Pass disaster of 1846-47, in which a group of immigrants were snowbound for months en route to California. When their food ran out, some survived by eating the corpses of their fallen comrades.<- back to summary
The event sparked the imagination of screenwriter Ted Griffin. "I had this idea," he remembers, "that cannibalism wasn’t so much a matter of survival, but was more a matter of want." Manifest Destiny, the Weendigo Indian myth, Darwin’s "Survival of the Fittest" theories, westward expansion and such contemporary topics as drug addiction and self-analysis were additional themes and metaphors Griffin wished to explore. But above all, he wanted to write a piece that would scare audiences. "I hope it will be very frightening," he explains. "I wrote in a lot of shocks and surprises that with any luck will have audiences jumping."
Griffin’s script was an important attraction to the filmmakers and actors. "I think Ted has an original and fresh voice," says producer Adam Fields, who brought the young writer’s script to Fox 2000 Pictures. "Merging a sense of dark humor to the gruesome subject of cannibalism was a novel idea and provided the basis for an interesting project.
"Ted’s screenplay had mature, adult characters," adds Fields, "the kind we rarely see in scary movies. It reminded me of ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Thing’, with, of course, overtones of the Donner Party incident."
Director Antonia Bird brings out this vision and unique brand of humor. "The story cannot be categorized," says Bird. "It is energetic and fast-paced, with a very strong, satirical edge and dark humor. So it’s really a mix of many things: adventure story, ‘whodunnit’ and satire."
Robert Carlyle appreciated the questions posed by Griffin’s screenplay. "What attracted me to the script," he explains, "was the notion of cannibalism — would you do it or not? Would anybody, in any given situation succumb to cannibalism if he or she was suffering from the kind of insatiable hunger described in the Indian legend?"
Several of the actors found much to admire in the screenplay’s surprising wit and humor. Says David Arquette: "What appealed to me about the story and my character was that he was really kind of ‘out there’ for a period piece. It was fun to play with that kind of humor."
"I was a little dubious about making a ‘horror’ film," says Guy Pearce. "But I really appreciated RAVENOUS’ uniqueness. We tried to give it an odd sense of humor and irony, which we thought would add a lot of fun to the film."
Jeffrey Jones had a similar reaction. "When I read the script I thought ‘Well this is really peculiar’," he recalls. "And then I began to realize it was funny. In fact, it’s scary and funny, which is an irresistible combination." Adds Jeremy Davies: "RAVENOUS has a very subversive humor, which kind of sneaks up on you. It has a strange, dark pocket that really appealed to me. It has a sly humor, so you don’t play it with a neon sign on your head." Echoing Davies and adding an appropriate description, Neal McDonough claims that the actors "all had the chance to sink their teeth into RAVENOUS, which makes the ensemble that much more interesting to watch."
Bird’s skill in handling actors impressed the cast. RAVENOUS is Carlyle’s fourth collaboration with the director, and he was pleased at the opportunity to reunite with her. "The fact that we’ve worked together so many times tells you all you need to know about how I feel about Antonia as a director and, especially, as a person," he says. "She has a fantastic ability, particularly with men, to pull out a sensitive or vulnerable side."
Guy Pearce shares his co-star’s feelings about their director. "Antonia has a wonderful ability to get inside the character’s head. That was particularly important for me because the audience sees the film largely through Boyd’s perspective. That really helped Antonia and me flesh out the character."
Bird, who hails from a family of thespians, "has a real understanding for and love of actors," according to producer David Heyman. "She is passionate and protective of them, and brings out things I haven’t seen many other directors do."