The Walking Dead’s ratings may be on the decline but French-Canadian horror film, The Ravenous, shows there is still life in the zombie genre. French-Canadian filmmaker, Robin Aubert, serves as writer and director for The Ravenous, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. While The Ravenous was praised by Canadian film critics, it has gone largely unnoticed among mainstream audiences. Fortunately, this Canadian hidden gem is now available for streaming on several platforms.
The Ravenous opens in rural Quebec, Canada, where an unexplained zombie outbreak has decimated the population. A handful of survivors have retreated from large cities to remote forests in the hopes of evading hordes of the infected. Aubert’s screenplay follows several characters whose paths eventually intersect as the infected hunt them across the countryside.
With The Ravenous, Aubert has shot a beautiful and meditative horror film. The rural, mist-covered Quebec countryside is gorgeously captured by Aubert with several well-framed, wide-angle shots throughout the film. In the more quiet moments, the film’s setting serves as almost a second character, giving The Ravenous an overall ominous feeling. While its pacing is deliberate and reflective, there are several incredibly tense moments that show Aubert has a knack for setting up scares. One scene where survivors must creep past a group of infected gathered in a field slowly builds to an almost unbearable level of dread. This is a zombie film and Aubert certainly does not disappoint with the undead gore; the violence is sparse but effective for the relatively smaller budget.
A Very Human Zombie Film
Like the best films in the zombie genre, The Ravenous is more focused on its human characters than its horde of infected. In contrast to The Walking Dead, Aubert’s screenplay is much less interested in the cruel and ugly side of humanity. Characters struggle with their humanity; one character remarks, “When you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is kill someone, you know it’s a brand new world.” Yet Aubert allows these characters to maintain their humanity. Each character is given some arc that allows the audience to identify with and feel something when they’re placed in danger. Much of the film revolves around the characters’ need to reconcile their lost lives with a desperate need to find new connections. All of the acting performances are exceptional. Aubert does include one recurring character gag that doesn’t really fit with the tone of the film but it’s a minor complaint.
Over the last decade and a half, the horror genre has come close to reaching a saturation point with zombie films. There probably aren’t many ways left to re-imagine the characterization of the undead. The Ravenous most directly borrows from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later with its rapid, fast-moving zombies. Aubert wisely avoids offering any explanations for the zombie outbreak and he does manage to provide an interesting tweak to the formula by suggesting that the undead maintain some elements of conscious awareness. In a few scenes, for example, the infected congregate around towers of chairs and other possessions that they have seemingly arranged, staring aimlessly. No expository dialogue is offered leaving viewers to consider their own interpretations. Aubert clearly had something interesting to say when he made The Ravenous.
Don’t Let Subtitles Deter You
There are a lot of zombie films out there for horror fans, but The Ravenous is an excellent example of how the undead can keep lurching into movie theatres. Aubert’s film is a quiet but genuinely tense zombie offering that is well-acted and beautifully shot. Some potential viewers may opt to skip out due to the subtitles but you’re only cheating yourself out of a fantastic movie. The Ravenous is a zombie film that will have you thinking long after the final credits have finished rolling, which is the best type of zombie film.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A