Jun 29 19

Whenever I come across a zombie movie on Netflix these days, I usually pass it by. I don’t expect to be entertained by this done-to-death genre. But then Ravenous caught my eye. This subtitled French-Canadian film (Les Affamés), written and directed by Robin Aubert, captured my attention because I could tell right away that it would be unique.

The locals of a remote village in Quebec begin to realize that something is very wrong with their friends and loved ones. A strange virus is spreading, its origin unknown. People are turning into ravenous animals that crave human flesh. But they aren’t typical shuffling zombies. They communicate by screaming (bloodcurdling, goosebump-inducing wails) and though they don’t speak, they have retained a good deal of intelligence and normal agility – they can run after their prey. And they prove to be cunning predators.

When the village is overrun, a small band of survivors – all of whom have suffered terrible losses – decide their only chance of staying alive is to travel on foot to the nearest city. Self-professed failure Bonin (Marc-André Grondin) becomes their leader. Tania (Monia Chokri) is rescued by Bonin and in turn, she rescues a young girl named Zoé (Charlotte St.-Martin) who has been orphaned. An elderly couple, Thérèse and Pauline, befriend a traumatized mother, and finally the group stumbles across a teenage boy and the injured old man he has rescued.

The odds are stacked against them. They must travel through dense forests and fog-shrouded fields while being hunted. (Those misty meadow scenes were nerve-wracking.) And what’s most unique about the zombies in this film is that they haven’t completely lost their humanity. They congregate in fields, collecting and stacking together objects that meant something to them when they were normal men and women. They almost seem to worship these “monuments.”

Philosophical moments present in conversations between characters in desperate situations and off-beat humor when you least expect it provides some respite from the suspense. Though I wouldn’t call it extreme, there are more than enough gory moments to satisfy a rabid zombie movie fan.    

In some ways, Ravenous reminds me of the Australian zombie movie Cargo, which I reviewed last year. It’s easy to connect emotionally with these characters, and their quiet reflections can make viewers think. What would you do if you knew you only had hours to live? Is surviving an apocalypse after you’ve lost everything and everyone actually worth it?

The actors are exceptional in their roles, including Charlotte St.-Martin, who plays stoic little Zoé. I feel comfortable giving Les Affamés four out of five goblins.