Written by: TheFecalKid
Robert Carlyle and Guy Pearce. Two very talented actors together in a Civil War era, black comedy, cannibal movie. I shouldn't even have to write the rest of the review after just that sentence. But since I'm such a nice guy, and we have a few standards here, I'll elaborate.
Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) has just received a medal for outstanding achievement in the battlefield. As it turns out, he's just a coward who got lucky. Because of this, his superior has sent him to Fort Spencer, a dysfunctional and out-of-the-way watchpoint commanded by Col. Heart (Jeffrey Jones) and 6 other men, due to the lack of traffic in winter months. One night, while the men share in a drink, they investigate a noise outside, and come across a man (Robert Carlyle) frostbitten and near death. After cleaning him up, and letting him rest by the fire, he regains consciousness and tells them his name is F.W. Colqhoun. He has been wandering the woods for some time, and has quite the story to tell the soldiers.
He and 5 other people set off across the United States to find a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, their guide convinced them he knew of a non-existent shortcut, and the troupe ended up getting lost. After winter set in, and the trails became too difficult to manage, they took refuge in a small cave where they waited for the storm to pass. When it didn't, they started to run out of food, and turned to the oxen, horses and even a dog for their meals. This could only last so long however, and one day when one of the group died, Colqhoun returned to the cave to find that man being roasted on a spit. Things quickly got out of hand however, as they started murdering each other to try and stop their insatiable hunger.
The soldiers stationed at Fort Spencer see it as their duty to travel to the cave and search for survivors. Before their rescue party leaves, they are warned by one of their Indian scouts, of the Wendigo myth; a story that a man consuming the flesh of his enemies takes their strength, but cannot control his urges for more flesh.
Oddly enough, this movie was given terrible reviews. Almost everywhere I looked, it was slammed for something or other. The most common thing being the soundtrack. While I do not agree with this at all, I can see why the soundtrack was a problem for people. There were times where it worked so well, particularly in the suspenseful moments when the soldiers were in the cave, where I found myself rewinding it to see how well the score complimented the scenes and the actor's reactions in them. I don't do that often, if at all, so to rewind a scene just for the sake of the music, that really tells you something. On the other hand, there were a few scenes in which the music didn't quite fit. There was a particular chase scene that was accompanied by a banjo in which it felt like I was watching the Deliverance scene from the Tiny Toon Adventures movie. Obscure reference, but some people may get it. When I first watched this years ago, I couldn't stand that banjo scene, and felt it ruined the movie completely. When I watch it now, I realize that not only did I not quite grasp that this was a horror comedy, and not just straight horror, but this scene is actually one of my favourites in the whole movie.
One thing I couldn't believe about this movie, was that it was directed by a woman. Not trying to be sexist here, but it's not common for a movie this bloody and violent to be directed by a female. Aside from American Psycho, I don't think I've seen a decent horror movie by one of 'em. What's also funny, is the fact that there is essentially no women in the script. There is one woman, the brother of the Indian scout, but she really has no bearing on the entire movie. I kind of liked this, because it had that same feeling of isolation that The Thing had. A lot of the same characteristics too, if you really take the time to break both movies down.
I really can't recommend this movie enough. You have an extremely talented cast, backed by an extremely talented director, and one of the most interesting stories I think I've ever seen on film. This marks Ted Griffin's debut as a screenplay writer, and while it was obviously heavily influenced by the story of the Donner Party, it is a very original screenplay that mixes humour and horror in just the right combinations. Unfortunately, it made next to nothing at the box office, and seems to be one of those films that few people know about. I found about 40 copies of it in the bargain bin for $6.99, and I couldn't believe my good luck. Not only had I not seen this movie in a store for years, but the last time I had, it was some ridiculous price, that is usually reserved for an import of some kind. If you see this movie for anything less than $15, pick it up immediately. You won't be a bit disappointed, and maybe you can spread the word to a few people, and get this movie circulating.