This film was reviewed as part of Fantastic Fest
PLOT: When Bart (David Anders) is killed in Iraq and his body shipped back to the United States for burial, he doesn’t stay dead for long. He comes back as a revenant – a zombie that requires blood for survival. Instead of approaching his once future bride Janet (Louise Griffiths) about his unique predicament, he instead approaches his slacker, slightly unhinged best friend Joey (Chris Wylde). What happens next is an escalating series of misadventures as Bart relies on Joey to help discover the pros and cons of being dead and needing to drink blood.
REVIEW: A handful of films every year justify my putting my body and mind through 8 days of sleep deprivation to watch and incredible number of films. For Fantastic Fest 2009, THE REVENANT joins that prestigious league of films that I refuse to shut up about. After screening this film, I ran into Ben Rock (director of the incredible ALIEN RAIDERS – one of the best of the Fantastic Fest 2008 bunch) who drew a comparison to RE-ANIMATOR. In the context of any lesser film, any self respecting genre fan would scoff but in the case of THE REVENANT the association is apropos.
Written, produced, directed and edited by D. Kerry Prior (visual effects artist on Don Conscarelli films such as BUBBA HO-TEP and PHANTASM III and IV) with enough confident panache for several films, THE REVENANT is a truly remarkable experience. Starting at the script, it’s easy to see how much care and attention was put into the creation. It’s a premise that has every reason to fail on screen. However, it’s a testament to Prior’s script that almost every single element works flawlessly. There are real, identifiable characters present at all times and there’s just enough seeds of the fantastical planted early on that when the believable escapades of a revenant and his buddy escalate into over-the-top bliss, the audience remains firmly connected. And boy does it ever escalate!
The dialogue is rich and crisp with a real attention to comical context and lines that seemed stripped right out of what you would imagine to be a real situation. The movie spends little time on background, getting right into the action and never slows down. There’s one bit of purely dramatic plotting near the end that sets to the run time at “just a smidgen too long” and seems left over from previous, longer cuts of the film.
Of course, this script is nothing if not for the cast that is chosen to pull it off and the movie is full of excellent performances. And while all supporting characters get equally positive note, it’s David Anders (“HEROES”) and Chris Wylde (“STRIP MALL”) as Bart and Joe that anchor the entire film. These are remarkably realized characters. When Bart first returns to walking the Earth, we’re 100% wrapped up in his dilemma. Enter Joey who is the other part of our brain that, after the initial shock of seeing your dead friend at your door, starts to wonder about all the possibilities. Chris Wylde is truly a revelation. I’ve not seen his previous works, but I want to see many, many more. His look, his timing and his delivery are all spot on and he owns every great line he is handed.
The direction and cinematography are exactly what they need to be for this kind of film. Prior was not working on a major budget, but you never once feel that it is detrimental to the final product. He lets the story and the characters do their thing, adding little bits of flair where they are needed. The special effects and compositing work are top notch (and the guys I met that worked on the film say they are still tweaking) with only one or two shots looking subpar. Regardless of that, this movie is a perfect example of how to make the best of your budget. If I have one bad thing to say about the production, it’s the dramatic element I mentioned earlier. The movie doesn’t suffer much for it and most, less critical viewers will completely ignore the moments.
I’ve purposely avoided referring to many specific scenes because the beauty of this film is the complete connection you have with the two lead characters. You have your questioning mind like Bart and you journey with him in the discovery of his unique characteristics. But there’s the part your brain that wants to push those qualities and take action that was not possibly in your living life. For that you have Joey on screen. And as the situations escalate, it’s a ride you can’t let go of. This is the kind of film that deserves to be seen in a large crowd and I hope and pray it doesn’t fall victim to the type of distribution hell that landed TRICK R TREAT into the direct-to-DVD road after two years of fan anticipation. Make noise about wanting to see this film and I promise you won’t be disappointed when given the opportunity to experience it for yourself. THE REVENANT is flat-out fantastic horror-comedy that is safely mentioned in the same breath as masterpieces such as RE-ANIMATOR.