As the Scream Factory roster of titles grows, it continues to push further out of its initial ’80s-era comfort zone. Their recent release of Ravenous takes things all the way to 1999 to create a blu-ray edition for this underrated blend of horror and satire.
The disc boasts a transfer that is unfortunately not all it could be. It benefits from the high-definition bump in resolution but the transfer provided by 20th Century Fox to Scream Factory looks to be an older HD transfer. The clarity and colors never get as rich or vivid as you would expect from a blu-ray and there’s a surprising amount of video grain at play here, particularly in the darker scenes. The image quality is a little better than past standard-def versions but not by much.
Ravenous fares better in the audio department: there are 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo lossless mixes here. The 5.1 mix was listened for this review. It doles out rear-speaker activity in a subtle but effective way and opens the film’s wonderful, richly-textured musical score to take advantage of multi-channel sonic possibilities. Fans of that score will be interested to know there is also a music-and-effects only track to be enjoyed here.
Audio also plays a major role in the disc’s special features. All three audio commentaries from the Fox DVD are carried over here. The first features director Antonia Bird with composer Damon Albarn. Bird talks frankly about being brought in at the eleventh hour to direct the film and how it impacted her approach to her work. She reveals how they had to rewrite scenes around unexpected weather changes and how the finale was largely improvised.
Albarn offers precise descriptions of how the different soundtrack cues were recorded and freely talks about his influences, which include everything from field recordings of folk music to Ennio Morricone. Both participants really appreciate each other’s work and that gives this track a genuine, conversational warmth.
The second track pairs screenwriter Ted Griffin with actor Jeffrey Jones. The resulting track approaches the film from a story and character perspective, with Griffin offering a lot of detail on what scenes were cut from the film and how the third act was extensively reworked. Jones chimes in with occasional observations on his fellow cast members and the physical rigors of the shoot. There’s also some material about the tumultuous nature of the production, which included two switches of director, two cinematographers and two editors.
The third track features actor Robert Carlyle alone. He only chimes in on selected scenes so the listener has to be patient but there is interesting material to be found here. For example, he reveals observations on the technical challenges of shooting scenes (the cliff-jump scene had to be shot 3 times) and talks about how he develop crucifix imagery as part of his character’s visual language.
Elsewhere, there are some video-based extras. The first is a series of deleted scenes. This offers up about twelve minutes’ worth of material in workprint form, including a neat scene where Neil McDonough’s character explains how he ended up at the fort. Bird offers commentary for these scenes on a separate audio track, revealing why they were cut and offering observations (like how McDonough improvised the aforementioned scene). A t.v. spot and theatrical trailer are also included: both do a good job of selling the film’s mix of horror and humor, though the theatrical spot is shockingly spoiler-heavy. A 30-shot image gallery offers a series of production design and costume sketches plus one photo of the exterior set.
Finally, Scream Factory has added a new interview to top this set off. It was produced by Aine Leicht and offers a nearly 21-minute chat with actor Jeffrey Jones. He talks about his love of history and how that drew him to the script’s take on manifest destiny. He also reveals how and why he got a rewrite for his character and tells a funny tale about how Carlyle forced the studio to take on Bird as the film’s final director. It’s an engaging chat that will fill in a lot of gaps for the film’s fans, including who the first director was and why he got fired.
In short, Scream Factory’s disc of Ravenous could have used a better transfer but if offers a lot of extras that will intrigue the film’s fans. If you really appreciate this film, those extras and the sonic upgrade just might make it worthwhile for you.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Ravenous, click here.