The Ravenous

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Ravenous
"One of the most artful and creative zombie films for some years."

Quebecois cinema has really come of age in recent years, developing a distinctive character that contributes atmosphere and weight to its dramatic productions. It has also produced some anarchic new voices, but it would be a mistake to associate The Ravenous with the latter just because it's about zombies. Although there are moments of joyously silly humour here, they are always tinged with darkness, and the film has a realist core and a sense of melancholy that give it much more depth than the average tale of angry undead.

Something has happened in the Quebec we see here. As in George Romero's genre-shaping Dawn Of The Dead, it's not quite clear what it was, but now the dead are coming back to life and threatening the living. Out in the countryside, a ragtag group of survivors try to find safety. The difference from genre norms here is immediately apparent. There are no sassy teenagers, no muscular men keen to be leaders. The survivors seem random and real, alive more due to caution and luck than fighting skills or special knowledge. Aside from an elderly lesbian couple, it's not clear how they know each other, though we are there to see some meet for the first time. What brings them together is simply the fact that they're human and they need each other. Disagreements are handled in a reasoned, civil manner. But the dangers they face are too great: for most of them, good sense will not be enough.

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Whilst some of those we meet clearly view themselves as fugitives, others are trying to carry on as normally as possible, believing that sooner or later the government will get things back under control. One local official delights in jumping out at people to give them a good scare, knowing that they'll think he's a zombie. Occasional quirky bits of humour like this work like the affection between the characters, off-setting the general gloom. The zombies, though they can move quickly, don't often jump out at people. The scariest things about them are their quietness and their ability to wait. We are in heavily wooded country threaded through with bands of mist which drift aside, from time to time, to reveal shadowy figures just standing there. The effect is to create an omnipresent sense of threat.

The situation is made more disorientating by the zombies' construction of what, for want of a better word, might be termed monuments - huge piles of chairs, machine parts or toys in forest clearings or by the side of the road, like a remembrance of consumerism.They provide a counterpoint to the increasingly humble existence of the humans, who are learning to forsake sentiment. To the youngest character, ZoƩ (Charlotte St-Martin), this is a world unfolding its mysteries like any other. She makes her own assessments of what's useful. We see hints of what her life will be if she survives - a place with its own values, not just a projection of our own into more violent circumstances.

One of the most artful and creative zombie films for some years, The Ravenous will be a little slow for some viewers but its deft use of suspense and gradually building sense of existential crisis will thrill others.

Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2018
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In a remote village, locals have turned against their loved ones. A handful of survivors goes into hiding, looking for others like them.

Director: Robin Aubert

Writer: Robin Aubert

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

Year: 2017

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Canada

Festivals:

Glasgow 2018

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