Ravenous (2017), or Les Affamés, is a French Canadian horror film, not to be confused with the 1999 horror Western with Robert Carlyle (though that is one to check out if you like stories of cannibalism and really black comedy mixed in with your horror). Directed by Robin Aubert, it tells the story of a band of survivors in small-town Quebec, who come together after the province (and possibly the rest of the continent) is overrun by zombies.
Monia Chokri as Tania, hiding after hearing a strange noise.
Bonin (Marc-André Grondin) and his friend Vézina (Didier Lucien) crack jokes in between picking off the infected with shotguns, while two older women, Pauline (Micheline Lanctôt) and Therese (Marie-Ginette Guay), support each other through their shared grief. A young woman named Tania (Monia Chokri), who swears that the bite on her hand came from a dog, helps to care for a young orphan girl named Zoe (Charlotte St-Martin). They are also joined by Céline (Brigitte Poupart), a former wife and mother who is handy with a machete, Réal (Luc Proulx), an elderly insurance salesman resembling John Hurt, and the teenage Ti-Cul (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier).
Édouard Tremblay-Grenier as Ti-Cul.
Though I'm calling them zombies, and consider Ravenous to be a zombie movie, the attackers are not referred to as "zombies" in the film. Ravenous stands out within the zombie movie genre in a few ways. Firstly, the zombies, if that's what they are, are more unpredictable than those in Romero's movies, or series like The Walking Dead. Sometimes they will just stand perfectly still staring at the living, or seemingly at nothing. Other times they attack at great speed, while screaming. This is not a movie for people who hate being startled. The zombies also exhibit another strange behaviour, such as what looks like the beginnings of a religion.
Another thing that stands out about this movie is the music, or lack of it at times. There are long stretches of silence, punctuated by brief dialogue or terrifying screams. I thought I'd accidentally muted my computer for the first minute or so because there was just silence over footage of a chair in a mist covered field (which does eventually make sense if you keep watching). When the first, fairly innocuous, sound occurred I nearly fell off the couch.
The main difference between Ravenous and other zombie films was that the common trope of other humans being a bigger threat than the zombies was entirely absent. The survivors in Ravenous are suspicious of each other when they meet, especially when it comes to people who they suspect may have been bitten, but they don't attack each other or steal each other's supplies. Instead, though people still make mistakes and bad decisions, time after time, with danger on all sides, they choose kindness, compassion and make sacrifices to help each other. I found this wonderfully refreshing, and I sincerely hope that this is how most humans will behave when we face whatever challenges the future holds for us as a species as the climate continues to change.
Zoe and Céline.
Ravenous has gorgeous cinematography, which highlights the natural beauty of the Quebec countryside (as an Aussie I just can't get my head around all that green!), as well as talented actors and characters you can really care about. It's a tense, but thoughtful film, and despite the high body count, it left me with a sense of hope. I recommend it for anyone who likes their horror films with heart instead of just guts.