I don’t know about you, but all this winter horror talk has made me kind of hungry.
If you’re planning to throw on a flick to watch with dinner, Antonia Bird’s Ravenous is not the film to choose. In fact, treat this film similarly to swimming: no food or drink for 30 minutes before viewing.
“Why?” I can hear you ask. But you already know the answer.
And not just any cannibals. Nineteenth-century cannibals. Let me explain.
When Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is reassigned to the remote Fort Spencer during the Mexican American War, he finds himself in charge of a ragtag group of outcasts. Surly, drunk and drug-addled, this team can barely keep themselves in line, let alone defend the outpost from attack. Luckily there isn’t much in the way of action in this desolate area.
Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) was part of a wagon train that got lost for months in the harsh mountain terrain near the outpost. Blocked by snowdrifts and without food, the party was forced to feed on the flesh of their fallen members to survive. To add insult to injury, they wouldn’t have even been in this mess if it wasn’t for Colonel Ives, Colqhon tells them. Ives was the reason the wagon train got lost, and reading between the lines, the Colonel has become violent.
Boyd prepares a search party to find the lost travels, but before he can depart, one member of his crew reminds him of the myth of the Wendigo. Consuming human flesh may fill the belly, but it can curse the soul.
This is a film that is as cruel as it is clever. Director Antonia Bird misses no chance to highlight the horrors of war, the harshness of pioneer life, and the brutal ugliness of people pushed to their limits.
While the premise may seem straightforward enough, I can guarantee this winter horror film will make your jaw hit the floor at least once before this tale is done.
Nothing holds as much power as the spoken word.
When radio host Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) and his crew learn that a savage riot has broken out in their hometown of Pontypool, Ontario, they’re concerned, but not overly so. Safe in the studio, they continue on with their night waiting to learn more about the unfolding events from their helicopter reporter, Ken (Rick Roberts).
Unfortunately, when they do hear back from Ken it’s not good news. The riot is getting worse, and more bloody. People are tearing each other apart. In fact, some people are tearing themselves apart. It’s not a pretty sight, and it only seems to be escalating.
Just when it looks like Ken might be in danger, a French transmission comes through the airwaves. The message warns “For your safety, please avoid contact with close family members and restrain from the following: all terms of endearment, talk with young children, and rhetorical discourse. “
As the situation becomes more dire, Grant and his crew must discover the truth of what’s happening in Pontypool before the danger inevitably makes its way to the station.
What really sets Pontypool apart is what you don’t see. Thanks to the story’s setting in a radio station, much of the action is conveyed through audio transmissions like the ones from Ken the helicopter reporter. In these sections of the film all you get to know about the horror taking place is what you hear and what you see on the radio employees’ faces.
The standout films in any subgenre are the ones that take tropes and turn them into something totally new. Based on the book Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, the movie uses the framework of its traditional subgenre (you’ll have to watch to find out which one), but this winter horror keeps things fresh by weaving in surprising plot complications to tell a story that’s totally original.
So, no matter whether you’re a holiday hater or just burnt out on the ho ho hos, there’s still plenty of great horror films for you to enjoy when the weather turns cold.
I’m always looking for something new to send a chill up my spine. What are some of your favorite winter horror films?