Ravenous (2016)

Directed by Robin Aubert

movie cinema horror review

One of the best zombie movies I've seen, and I've seen a bunch. This probably isn't for every zombie movie fan. It's relatively low-budget, or maybe mid-budget, the pacing is slow, and the zombies probably aren't what you're used to. But this movie is absolutely unique, for lots of reasons, and every quirk is a cinematic superpower.


The zombies in Ravenous aren't actually all that ravenous. By default, they just stand around. You can walk past them, as long as you keep your distance, and they don't really do anything. Think 1978 Body Snatchers. They stand around looking, in many cases, just like anybody else. Barring obvious decay or blood splatters, you can't tell a zombie from an unwashed starving survivor. Until one of them catches on to the fact that you're alive. Then it's a zombie howl that enrages all surrounding zombies, and they all run to attack.

That's if you're lucky. They don't always howl before attacking. They can be a little sneaky sometimes. They'll walk up behind you, take a bite out of your neck, and then try for more.


As I recall, we only see one survivor turn into a zombie, and even that happens off-screen. The rate of infection is long and slow.

We're introduced to Tania as a captive of other survivors. They've tied her up in a shed because she came to them with a wounded hand. She claims a dog bit her, but obviously they don't believe her. Eventually they untie her, but throughout the movie her wounded hand is a matter of suspicion, because it takes a long time to turn.

That in itself isn't necessarily unusual. It's pretty common in movies for there to be a little lag time between getting bitten and turning. And some movies, sometimes, have a brief scene about how sad it is that somebody's about to turn undead. This movie lets characters sit with that knowledge for as long as it takes for you to care about it. You don't get visibly ill or feverish as you turn. You get bitten, and eventually, several days later, you're undead.


The film was shot in rural Quebec. Sometimes the landscape looks like run-down backwoods, and other times it's mesmerising, laden with fog.

The zombies inexplicably create bizarre structures out of household items. There's a tower of junk they create in a field. There's a monument made of old chairs that reaches high into the sky.

Eight or nine survivors wander through the forests and fields, too suspicious of one another to team up. They never venture into a city after they find a note stating that the cities are overrun with zombies. As a result, we don't learn the state of the world first-hand.

You spend over 90 minutes in zombie-infested Quebec, and it's honestly isolating. Your world closes in, you don't think about finding sanctuary because the world is only what you see. I don't think I even once thought about the possibility of the survivors finding a safe place. It just doesn't cross your mind, maybe until the very end when you've only got one or two survivors left.

Atmosphere is a big part of a good zombie movie, but there's usually only a few options. Ruined cities are popular, but an unsettling creepy rural setting isn't exactly original. But this one feels different. It's all-encompassing, it's all you see, and it's full of zombies that simultaneously feel non-threatening and terrifying all at once.


The pace of Ravenous is slow and a little stilted. I found myself wondering whether the sometimes erratic shifts in character focus was down to budget limitations. When you can't pay actors to take off from their day job reliably, you sometimes end up shooting more of one actor for one half of the movie and then somebody else in the other half.

Whatever the reason, there's an uneven distribution of character focus, and sometimes the story skips past something that you think normally a movie would show on screen. The effect is a story that's just a little disjointed. And who knows? Probably after a zombie apocalypse, things would seem disjointed. It's never enough to confuse, but it's often enough to catch you off guard.


Ultimately, a great zombie movie is defined by the survivors. Love them or hate them, they're the humans we human viewers connect with. Ravenous has an understated cast. There aren't any Hollywood movie stars in rural Quebec, and at first you're not even sure who the right cast is. Which group of survivors are the heroes of the story? Who's going to be the zombie killer? Who's going to be the coward who betrays everybody else? Who's just zombie bait?

It turns out those roles don't exist in Ravenous. One of them compulsively tells bad jokes. Another carries around her accordion. One's an 8 year old girl. The survivors in Ravenous are ordinary people. They're worried about the families they've been separated from, worried about the strangers they're with, worried about the future.

They don't talk much. There's a lot of wandering around in silence, apprehensive looks at strangers from across the woods, some reminiscing about what they've lost. It's easy to connect with them, because there's a noticeable lack of one-liners after a zombie kill, a lack of rapport or even friendship.

Amazing movie

This is easily one of the best and most unique zombie movies I've seen. It's up there with Night of the Living Dead. It's good, hypnotizing, emotionless and yet emotional. Ravenous doesn't show a zombie apocalypse, it just shows the remnants of humanity, lost among each other's presence. It's a perfect movie. I'd absolutely watch it again, and so should you.

Lead photo by Anika De Klerk on Unsplash

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