Zombies running through the Quebec countryside and they didn’t get lost?

Ravenous (Les Affames)

Director: Robin Aubert

Writer: Robin Aubert

Featuring: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Charlotte St-Martin, Micheline Lanctôt, Marie-Ginette Guay, Luc Proulx, Édouard Tremblay-Grenier

In the isolated countryside of Quebec, a virus that brings the dead back to life as flesh-eating zombies has decimated the population. A small group of survivors get by with weapons and hide-outs in the woods where they cover each other’s backs and try to find a way of escaping to an area controlled by the authorities or military at least.

In true Quebecois style this is an entirely French language film with the exception of ‘stop’ and ‘sex shop’ being the only English words I heard spoken throughout the run time. Filmed in Ham-Nord, Saint-Adrien and Wotton in Quebec I was fooled by my ignorance and language skills into thinking that this was in fact a continental French film. With thick woods, lonely straight roads and little to no signs of civilisation and definite Euro-style flow and feel to the film I just though ‘French’ as I watched it.

Being in this style this means you must get used to long pauses, looks and little exposition, and for this, and the different settings for a zombie film you have to give the makers credit. Unfortunately, without any exposition great stretches of the film that are supposedly left to your imagination rather irritatingly make no sense. The very opening scene for instance appears to be an origin set up but is never referred to again or has any significance to the rest of the story, until in a rather silly manner the very end of the movie.

Although all the characters were well-acted and tried to be naturalistic throughout the film their motivation for anything they did seemed to be confused. Driving around looking for zombies, shooting them and burning their bodies, looking for resources and apparently visiting each other, although I wasn’t sure if they were all supposed to rendezvous at the farmhouse from time to time, or something.  The villains, zombies, are 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead ‘remake’ sprinters but to give Aubert the writer some credit he tries to give them a different spin. In this case they seem to be motivated by something or some other force, with featured zombies having some semblance of a personality and some tiny recognition of what is going on around them. They have an interesting and quirky ritual too – I will not spoil it.

All the other usual zombie faults come to the fore though. They scream, shout and run like deranged football supporters to get to you, except when the story does not want them to, then they sneak up on you apparently wearing ballet pumps and ‘get you’. Sometimes a zombie will ignore a character or be fooled by them standing still and then the next minute they search them out and find them no matter what. My personal favourite in these ‘waves of zombies’ style films is that there are hundreds and hundreds of them swarming all over their victims, they eat flesh, yet if the victim is a character the filmmaker wants to ‘come back’ they will come back as a zombie with some blood on them and a few bites. Logic would dictate they would be overwhelmed by the numbers and ripped to shreds with nothing left of them. I know it is a silly zombie film and it is not real but every time I see this, I just wish the makers would write a zombie-bible for their story and then stick to the rules. It is annoying.

All in all Ravenous is a strange film and has a few good ideas in it. No doubt it is a bit slow and the story does not appear to join-up together at times with huge gaps in logic. It seems a bit ponderous at times but for trying a different set-up and slightly different situations there has to be some credit. The acting is good all round and mostly believably realistic, but character decisions were not and motivations and relationships throughout the run time had to be guessed at.

The Quebec rural countryside was interesting from a ‘not seen this very often’ point of view and the camerawork, effects and look were all good.

The overall feeling is the film and story were slightly underdeveloped and possibly budget and time restricted. There is definitely a bigger more interesting story and film in Ravenous, but it could not fight its way out – this time – but it’s hard to put a good zombie down.

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