The concept is incredible; a hurricane (and maybe an evil sonuvabitch) trap a mega hot teen and her autistic brother in their house with a starved ex-circus tiger. Interested? I bet you are! As intrigued as you are, I’ve been dying to see Christine Coyle Johnson and Julie Prendiville Roux’s screenplay for RAVENOUS (previously titled BURNING BRIGHT) come to life for years now. Lucky me, Lionsgate screened the film at this past week’s American Film Market where I was the sole attendee (to one of a few showings) who witnessed Carlos Brooks edge-of-your seat thriller (where the hell was everyone?).
The movie opens with a hilarious exchange between Howie (Meat Loaf) and Johnny Gavineau (Garret Dillahunt, who you might remember from THE LAST HOUSE ON YOUR LEFT), where Johnny is looking to purchase a retired tiger from Howie in order to start a local safari in a get-rich-quick scheme. After attempting to swindle Howie into cutting the price, Meatloaf delivers an epic monologue that transforms this cute circus tiger into a blood-craving monstrosity. Following a good thirty minutes of character development – Johnny steals Kelly’s (the breakout performance of Briana Evigan from SORORITY ROW) money that was being used to send her autistic brother into care so she could go off to college – the plot thickens when Kelly awakes to discover that there’s a tiger loose in her house. To worsen the situation, Johnny has boarded up the entire house from the outside to protect it from the hurricane.
While the plot might sound congested, everything is there for a purpose and nearly all of it carries a solid payoff. With that said, the meat of the film (no pun intended) is where Kelly must find a way to survive the various tiger attacks with an out-of-control autistic brother not helping the situation. What transpires are incredibly tense and suspenseful sequences that had me gasping for air. With Briana and the tiger never actually being in the same room when filmed, Brooks beautifully makes movie magic by creating the illusion of various on-screen battles. The best scene comes when Kelly climbs up a laundry shaft in the kitchen while the tiger is sniffing around for her below. She’s barely clinching on to the sides and sweat is pouring out of her skin (it’s a wondrous sight to behold). Below, the tiger roams back and forth seeking out her scent. A drop of sweat slowly drips down the side of the shaft and lingers for a few seconds before hitting the kitchen floor below. The tiger licks it over and over again before looking directly up. You can guess what’s next.
Watching this movie by myself just wasn’t fair; I was having too much fun and had nobody to share it with. There were moments that had me laughing, sometimes I cheered, and then there were a few occasions where I jumped out of my seat. RAVENOUS is straight-up FUN.
While gore-seekers won’t be finding much blood, those who want a fast-paced and engaging ride will find much delight in locking themselves in this house. With remakes and franchise films controlling the market these days, it’s such a treat to take in something as smart (so incredibly smart), original and interesting as RAVENOUS.