But we’d both heard good things about this movie and never got round to sitting down to watch it, so Saturday night was a go. All I knew about it was that two actors I like were in it and that it was a black comedy about cannibalism. Where do I sign up, right?
Where to Watch:
Captain John Boyd’s promotion stations him at a fort where a rescued man tells a disturbing tale of cannibalism. (via IMDB)
The Uncondensed Version:
Handsome Captain Boyd (Guy Pearce) comes back from the Mexican-American War something of a hero, though he’s obviously been through the mill and is sickened by what he has seen on his travels. Sadly for him, his Commanding Officer soon finds out that he’s not as hench as first thought, and had actually chickened out in battle. That he finally came through to save the day isn’t enough and, as a punishment dressed up as promotion, Boyd is sent away to a remote fort in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Personally it looks and sounds like bliss to me, but Boyd doesn’t have time to kick back and think about writing his first novel, as – just as he’s getting to know his seven new roomies – an injured and distressed stranger appears out of nowhere. The stranger (Robert Carlyle), is unconscious when they get to him but it’s nothing a vigorous rub down in front of the fire can’t cure. It’s all quite erotic.
When he awakes, naked and wrapped in fur (yey!), the gents (and one lady, Martha) question him. He reveals a bloody thirsty tale of how he came to be on their doorstep.
In short, he and a wagon train of others come undone in the Sierra Nevada (a few days walk from the Fort). They take refuge against the elements in a cave where things turn very bad indeed as they run out of food. Once they’ve chowed down on all the cattle, horses and even Robert Carlyle’s dog, they start on the first member of the party to pop his clogs, beginning with his legs.
Eventually, one party member, a Colonel Ives, takes it too far and starts killing them off one by one, until there are just three left: himself, Robert Carlyle and a woman, the wife of one of the deceased. Robert Carlyle admits to being a pussy right about here and buggers off, leaving the woman. Basically, he’s in such a state because he’s walked day and night until he reached the Fort, where we are now.
The soldiers, including scaredy bum Boyd, see it as their responsibility to find the cave and check for survivors. Even I can see this is a shaky plan but no, they’re good men and so off they trundle. Before they do, however, their Indian guide, George tells them about the Wendigo legend; a myth about how a man consuming the flesh of his enemies takes on their strength but becomes a demon cursed by a hunger for human flesh. Oo-er.
Robert Carlyle insists on travelling with them to show them the cave. Everyone goes except David Arquette (here playing a scholar – jokes, he’s basically Dewey again in cattle hide), another soldier and Martha, George the guide’s elder sister. In fact, David Arquette and Martha have already gone to gather supplies before the men leave.
Off they trot. On the way one the soldiers falls and gets badly injured. In the night he wakes up to Robert Carlyle licking him (worse ways to wake up?). The others decide it would probably be best to restrain Robert Carlyle, who’s acting cray. As they near the cave, he gets more and more spooked.
Boyd and another soldier go into the cave, while the others keep guard outside. They find a well-like hole and the soldier climbs into it. There he finds the usual cannibalistic paraphernalia; crunchy skulls, fibulas, the usual. He then stumbles across a row of rib cages hanging artistically in the background. Of course, he has the good sense to count them (there are supposed to be five as per Robert Carlyle’s story) but there are way more than five and – gasp! – some torn uniform, very much like the blue one the soldiers are wearing…
They run out of the cave where, meanwhile, Robert Carlyle has gone mental and dug out a knife. He kills Colonel Hart (who’s in charge)and George, then chases down the young, injured soldier. Boyd and his mate go after him, where the mate is killed. Boyd exhibits some predictably cowardly behaviour but manages to shoot Robert Carlyle and jump off a cliff, where he lands right next to his friend. Boyd’s broken his leg in a major way and lies there for two nights, deciding what to do. No hurry, Boyd, Robert Carlyle only knows where you live.
On his second night at the bottom of the cliff, Boyd gives in and eats his friends leg. The next morning he can actually walk okay and hotfoots it straight back to the ranch. When he arrives, he tells his story to the three remaining housemates and nobody really believes him. The Commanding Officer from before arrives and strongly suggests that Boyd change his story, and admits that he got confused. Boyd refuses.
His superiors decide to bring in a stand-in to replace Colonel Hart (who’s been chomped earlier, remember?) while they figure out what the fudge to do. His name? Colonel Ives… *JAZZ HANDS* – it’s Robert Carlyle again!
Boyd is in the doghouse now, and Robert Carlyle’s Ives is the model solider, bearing none of the injuries Boyd claims to have inflicted upon him. Robert Carlyle goes to speak to Boyd and explains why he did what he did. He too had been told of the Wendigo myth and since he was on the verge of death with TB, he thought he’d try cannibalism on for size, what the hell, right? It’s obviously worked a charm as Robert Carlyle’s skin is absolutely flawless.
I don’t want to spoil the ending too much but there is a little twist as the rest of the gang end up as dinner. Some horses are killed. Boyd gets blamed for all of it and Martha is sent to get help. Robert Carlyle proposes that they join forces and live together in the fort, picking off travellers selectively as they pass and generally having a high old time. Guy Pearce ain’t 100% on board.
There’s a final showdown between Boyd and Robert Carlyle, handily set a tool shed. Will Boyd finally be a brave bunny or will he continue with wet wipe tendencies? Who will win the fight? And will Boyd do as Robert Carlyle advises, which is to, simply, “Eat or die”?
Why don’t you settle down with a nice steak dinner and see for yourselves?
This film was fantastic. It is very dark and gory, pleasingly.
Described as a black comedy, it is subtly funny in places with some decent one liners. Robert Carlyle absolutely relishes his part, or at least it feels that way, which really helps you to like his character. His proposal doesn’t even seem like too much of an ask really, he makes is seem like a logical move. Guy Pearce isn’t that horrible to look at either, let’s face it.
Some of their scenes together took on a homoerotic tone (in my eyes), which I enjoyed thoroughly. Again, I won’t give away the ending but when the film does climax, our two leading lads share some true intimacy. I guess dining out on your colleagues will really bring a couple closer together.
The music is also really good; a perfect example of using the soundtrack to illustrate true understanding of the film’s tone. It’s not something I usually mention, or notice really, but in contrast to last weeks review, in which I thought the musical choices spoilt the movie, I thought it was worth including. The score is co-written by Damon Albarn, for which he received significant attention.
4 Happy-go-lucky Doctor Lecters out of 5
Pop over to Jillian’s shortly to see what she thought.
All images via Google.