Film Review: Ravenous

25 March 18 words: Fabrice Gagos

Robin Aubert's new zombie film might be decent for viewers of  The Walking Dead, but real horror fans may be slightly less impressed...

Director: Robin Aubert

Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Charlotte St-Martin

Running time: 100 min

We have already survived a few Zombie apocalypses, haven't we? Apocalypses of all kinds, from the dead serious (28 Days Later) to the absurdly fun (Shaun of the Dead) to apocalypses all across the globe: France (La Horde), Norway (Død Snø), Korea (Last Train for Busan), Australia (Undead)... We even had bloodthirsty sheep terrorizing New Zealand (Black Sheep) and bad burgers attacking people (The Mad). So why not try to survive a Canadian countryside apocalypse in an artsy way with land-artist zombies? This is what Canadian director Robin Aubert proposes with his new Netflix exclusive film Ravenous.

Zombie movies have become extremely popular this last decade. Especially amongst those who 'don't really like horror, but Walking Dead is fine, because it's not about gory horror but about humanity.' They've become so popular, in fact, that it has become very difficult for the horror fan to get excited about a new one.

Aubert seems to be aware of this fact and thus suggests something new by trying to avoid the classic tropes. Yes, once again, we're going to follow a group of survivors trying to cope with a flesh eaters' invasion, but we'll never know anything about it. We are simply catapulted into this changing world and have no clue about what's going on. Which seems fair since the characters, lost in their wild countryside, didn't get the memo either.

When (almost) all zombie movies, applying Hobbes' philosophy, show the savagery of mankind in a surviving context, Aubert simply focuses on a small group of average people trying to do their best to deal with the situation. Some seeing themselves as survivors, other trying to carry on as normal as possible.

By trying too hard not to be what it is, it ends up being nothing really new

Ravenous also tries to be different in its form, not only with his idiosyncratic set up in the Canadian forest and its equally idiosyncratic Canadian French - believe me, being French didn't spare me the need for subtitles to understand this exotic langage. But by mixing the artsy and the gory, the silent and the noisy, Aubert tries to think outside the box whilst adopting a realistic approach of the genre.

The movie starts with a series of unrelated sketches. Introducing the survivors and how they cope with the situation: the Sci-Fi nerd Bonin (Marc-André Grondin) and his friend Vezina (Didier Lucien) turned into zombie hunters, the dog bitten (or is she?) Tania (Monia Chokri), cold-hearted badass and working-mom Celine (Brigitte Poupard), Real and Ti-Cul who survived quietly in the forest, the orphan little girl Zoe hiding in her house, and a couple of old ladies (Marie-Ginette Guay and Micheline Lanctôt) waiting for the gouvernement to get things back to normal.

This little group eventually gathers in the second act and decides to travel in search of a secure haven, whilst the undead seem to have developed a strange ritual that involves stacking furniture in fields. Yes, that seems a bit straightforward and absurd, but that's exactly what the movie offers: a reflection on how life, in any situation, is absurd. And how important small details - like an accordion - become when the end is near.

The surrealism introduced by Aubert with the undead's rituals and other recurring jokes are reminiscent of Swedish director Roy Andersson (You, the Living), another director fascinated by the shallowness of life. But Aubert never reaches the same level of meaningful absurdity. And that is the main flaw of the movie: by trying too hard not to be what it is, it ends up being nothing really new. Aubert's choice of avoiding explanations and tropes could have been refreshing but, at the end of the day, the film tells nothing others in the same genre didn't already told.

To be fair, Ravenous is not an unpleasant movie and, 24 hours after watching it, I still have some lingering scenes in mind. But it lacks this small "je ne sais quoi", this generosity you can find in other Horror movies, which could have given more weight to this film. However, it will surely please a lot of people. First and foremost, those Walking Dead fans who don't like horror movies. But I never liked the Walking Dead and always loved horror movies.

Ravenous is available on Netflix now


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