The Walking Dead’s ratings may be dropping, but French-Canadian horror movie, The Ravenous, shows there’s still life in the zombie genre. Over 50 years ago, George A Romero re-imagined the zombie. Thirty-five years later, Danny Boyle sparked new interest in the sub-genre with 28 Days Later. When The Walking Dead premiered in 2010, the zombie was firmly entrenched in contemporary pop culture. French-Canadian writer and director, Robin Aubert debuted his take on the ‘living dead’, The Ravenous, at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017. While critics praised The Ravenous, mainstream audiences missed out. Fortunately, Netflix has recently added this Canadian hidden gem for its Netflix and Chills.
Following an unexplained outbreak that has decimated the population, pockets of survivors struggle to get by day-by-day. Mistrust, fear, and paranoia now rule. Most survivors have retreated from large cities to remote forests in the hopes of evading hordes of the infected. Now several survivors, including a young girl, band together when they learn they’re caught in the infected’s pathway. As hoarders of infected close in, the small group desperately searches for refuge.
The Ravenous is Beautiful Carnage
With The Ravenous, Aubert has shot a beautiful and meditative horror movie. 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. As a result, The Ravenous is rich in atmpospher, characterized by a pervasive ominous feeling. On one hand, Aubert’s pacing is often deliberate and reflective. Yet there’s still several incredibly tense moments that show Aubert has a knack for scares. One scene where survivors must creep past infected in a field slowly builds to almost unbearable levels of dread. After all, this is a zombie movie Aubert doesn’t disappoint with the undead gore. While the violence is sparse, it’s effective for movie’s relatively smaller budget.
The Ravenous a Very Human Zombie Film
Like the best zombie movies, The Ravenous is more focused on its human characters than its horde of infected. In contrast to The Walking Dead, Aubert’s screenplay is less interested in the cruel and ugly side of humanity. Aubert’s characters struggle with their humanity. In one scene, a 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 afforded an arc that allows the audience to identify with and feel something when they’re endangered.
“When you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is kill someone, you know it’s a brand new world”.
In fact, much of the movie revolves around characters’ need to reconcile lost lives. The Ravenous paints a picture of a fractured world where people struggle to make new connections. All of the acting performances are exceptional. Audiences outside of Canada may not recognize any of the actors. But this isn’t a bad thing – you won’t be distracted by famous faces. Aubert does include one recurring character gag that doesn’t really fit with the tone of the movie, but it’s a minor complaint.
Zombies as Social Allegory
Over the last decade or so, horror has come close to reaching a saturation point with zombies. There probably aren’t many ways left to re-imagine the undead. Last year alone, studious released The Cured, Hostile, Day of the Dead: Bloodline, Feral, Overlord, and Cargo. The Ravenous most directly borrows from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later with its rapid, fast-moving zombies. Similar to many of the movies listed above, The Ravenous has more on its mind than just zombies and gore.
First, Aubert wisely avoids offering any explanations for the zombie outbreak. In addition, he manages to provide an interesting tweak to the formula. The Ravenous suggests 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.