Review of The Revenant


Movie Review: "The Revenant"

-- Rating: R (for pervasive language, strong bloody violence, sexual content, some drug use, and graphic nudity)
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: August 24, 2012
Directed by: D. Kerry Prior
Genre: Comedy/Horror

"The Revenant" is not an easy movie to pin down because it is something of a hybrid of several genres. It is not a straight zombie or vampire movie, even though the titular character has traits of both undead creatures. It is also not a buddy comedy, though it also has elements of that genre thrown in there as well. Somehow, screenwriter D. Kerry Prior, who also directed the film, makes this movie mash-up work without the genre mashing becoming a distraction. On the contrary, the hybrid nature of the film is what makes it so original and fresh.

The movie begins almost like a tragedy, with soldier Bart (David Anders) dying while serving his country in Iraq. His body is returned home to the United States, where he is given a proper hero's burial. Three days after that funeral, he suddenly awakens in his grave, which he digs his way out of. Confused and disheveled, he turns to childhood buddy Joey (Chris Wylde), who-unsurprisingly-is astonished to see Bart.

After the initial shock wears off, Joey and Bart sit down to try and figure out why this is happening to him and what they can do about it. They decide that he is a revenant-an undead creature that looks and smells like a zombie, but with much more agility and thinking ability. He requires human blood to stop his body from further decay, which makes him part vampire. When the sun rises, his body stops walking immediately and won't rise until sunset, another vampire trait. The good news is that all of his human memories are intact, and he can think and act like a vampire instead of a zombie, who would be nothing but a walking piece of rotting flesh.

The two devise a plan to keep the supply of blood flowing for Bart, which serves to keep him "alive" (as much as a dead man can be alive). They have some semblance of morals, so they don't want to be murderers, but robbing blood banks will only get them so far. They decide that instead of taking blood from innocent people, they will hunt down the dregs of society and kill them instead. This way, Bart gets his much-needed liquid meal and dangerous criminals are taken off the streets. It would seem like a win-win proposition, and at first it is. The way Bart and Joey almost gleefully take down criminals is darkly funny, especially Joey's often hilariously stoned reactions. In fact, all of the humor is dark in "The Revenant." There are no easy, crowd-pleasing jokes. These comic lines may occasionally make the audience squirm and challenge how politically correct they want their comedy to be.

Of course, the bad guy killing spree has to be complicated in some way, or the movie would become nothing more than a fancy exploitation film. The complication is Bart himself, as his condition slowly starts to become more complicated. He and Joey decided he was a revenant, but do they really know what that means? As Bart starts to morph into something that could be more sinister than originally thought, the glee with which the friends go about their business begins to dry up.

The twists are fun in a somewhat sinister sort of way, which is all due to Prior's script. He was a visual effect coordinator on several horror films before taking the helm to make his own film. His eye for these effects is fairly evident in "The Revenant," which has a great visual flow to it.

"The Revenant" will likely be compared to "Shaun of the Dead," the brilliantly funny Simon Pegg riff on zombie films. There are a few similarities, especially in the friendship of Bart and Joey, which mirrors a similar one in Pegg's film. However, "The Revenant" has many twists and turns and is a much darker comedy than the broader funnies of "Shaun of the Dead." It also goes pitch black in terms of comedy at one point, a place Pegg never ventures to in his film.

The film really can stand on its own and is unlike anything else out there. It was filmed in 2009, but it will barely get a theatrical release in 2012. Perhaps movie executives didn't know what to do with the film, which is hard to market in only one way. To market it just as a comedy does a disservice to the horror part of the film, and vice versa. "The Revenant" defies genres, which is a good thing. It is hard for filmmakers to find creative ways to put a new spin on horror movies, which is why it is so pleasing that "The Revenant" has finally found a home in theaters.

Rating: 3 out of 5