PLOT: After dying in combat, Bart returns from the grave, pretty much the way he used to be - except for the fact that he has an unquenchable thirst for blood and his flesh is rotting off. Teaming up with his slacker buddy, Bart must discover how best to move on with his, um, life.
REVIEW: Despite a successful year-long festival run from 2009 - 2010, Kerry Prior's THE REVENANT has obviously had a prolonged journey to a wide audience. At long last, the film is receiving a VOD/limited theatrical release this week, which will be a treat for fans of genre-bending low-budget cinema. While sporting enough sight gags and silly laughs for the casual horror movie watcher, THE REVENANT is more directly aimed at those with a wicked sense of humor and a fine-tuned appreciation for the morbid.
The film begins with the ambushing of a squadron of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Bart (David Anders) is killed almost immediately, and his body is shipped off to his hometown of L.A. There he is mourned by his best slacker bud Joey (Chris Wylde) and girlfriend Janet (Louise Griffiths), who don't get beyond Bart's wake before hooking up. But this will have to be a short-term affair, as due to unforeseen (and unexplained) circumstances, Bart rises from the grave. Bewildered, he seeks solace with Joey, who, after an understandable freak-out, quickly surmises the situation as being nothing short of awesome.
After getting over the dismay of this new chapter in his life, Bart discovers that he is neither vampire nor zombie. He's a "revenant," which Joey helpfully describes as "one who returns from the dead in corporeal form." The only cure for said problem is the old stake through the heart/decapitation double-tap, so that's out. What's a revenant to do? Other than drink and party a little, Bart eventually figures it out, inadvertently, while being robbed: After killing the crook, Bart sucks the dead man's blood, satiating his thirst and ridding the streets of a scumbag. Voila! An undead, vigilante hero is born.
That's actually just the set-up; THE REVENANT goes in a handful of directions throughout its considerable running time of 116 minutes. The movie doesn't rush its first act - doesn't rush anything, actually (it takes almost an hour to get to the point where Bart and Joey discover their true calling as crimefighters) - and while it could be argued that no horror film should last much longer than 90-100 minutes, THE REVENANT has a considerable number of twists and turns up its sleeve, not to mention various tones that range from wacky comedy to cynical social commentary to gloomy drama. It keeps moving and shaking and spewing up goo, just like its protagonist.
Anders and Wylde are an amusing pair, persuasive and energetic, even though they spend a lot of time covered in latex and gore. The two succeed in making Prior's film all the more engaging, with Anders' dead-pan delivery a perfect contrast to Wylde's bug-eyed eccentricity. At least one of them is on screen at any given moment, so the fact that we like these goofs - even when they're behaving in ways less than wholesome - is imperative.
Prior shows a good eye often, and gets creative with visual and make-up effects even when it's clear the production didn't have a ton of money at its disposal. And while his narrative could certainly use tightening up (with that hefty running time comes a handful of sequences that are definitely expendable), the director has a take-no-prisoners mindset that works in his favor. Prior isn't afraid to offend folks, playing on stereotypes and letting loose with a smattering of racial epithets rather casually in a few scenes. The film also doesn't conclude on a particularly cheery note; in fact, there's a heavy political statement being made. Not for everyone, this kind of thing, but that's what sets THE REVENANT apart from your typical zombie-comedy fare.