Universal // 2009 // 113 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // April 13th, 2012
The only thing worse than having your best friend die is having him come back.
"I think this is maybe more than just a bug."
Having returned from serving his country in a body bag, deceased soldier Bart Gregory (David Anders, Heroes) surprises his best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) when he appears at his door following his own funeral. When the initial shock wears off, the two friends come to realize Bart is a revenant, and he requires human blood to keep functioning. Thus, they hatch a plan to keep Bart well-stocked, while also doing society a service. But the plan goes awry when the true nature of Bart's condition is revealed.
Every time you think you have The Revenant pinned down into a particular genre, it produces an unexpected turn sets off in a whole new direction. Beginning as a buddy comedy of sorts, writer-director Kerry Prior continually surprises the viewer with a film that defies categorization, yet still works as a single cohesive piece. Not to mention it's relentlessly entertaining.
Early trailers for The Revenant seemed to focus on the comedy aspect of the story, and sure enough the film's opening act does play out like the American cousin of Shaun of the Dead. But when the movie enters the second act, and Prior begins to expose its dark underbelly, that's when things get really interesting. The humor -- which was dark to begin with -- becomes almost pitch black, as Joey comes to understand exactly what's required to keep his best friend functioning. This is where The Revenant excels.
It's clear Prior has spent far more time than is healthy considering the implications of being one of the undead, and so his film is littered with cool little moments that show an attention to detail few directors even attempt, let alone achieve. The impact of Bart's return on his loved ones is felt in a way that actually resonates with the viewer. Bart himself is a beautifully written character, and there's irony in the fact he becomes more concerned with his own survival following his original death than he was before it. This is both unexpected and massively appreciated, as it adds a depth to the characters that actually draws you towards them; that in itself is such a rarity in a zombie movie it marks The Revenant out as something truly special.
But there I go. I've just labeled The Revenant a zombie movie, when quite clearly it isn't. Well, not really; it's more a blurring of numerous mythologies that draws on the best parts of vampirism and the undead. Regardless of any labels that are carelessly thrown around, it's hard to shake the feeling this is a movie destined for the same kind of cult adulation reserved for the likes of Evil Dead II and Re-Animator. All the ingredients are there for something that will be cherished by the horror faithful who have grown weary of watered down reboots and remakes.
Even gore hounds are catered to, with more splatter than you can shake a stick at; although, with writer-director Kerry Prior having previously produced visual effects on such films as The Lost Boys and 1988's The Blob remake, perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise. Limbs are hacked off, decapitated heads reanimated, and buckets of bile spewed across the screen in an orgy of violence and bad taste. But again, the attention to detail is what impresses most. After all, it's one thing to reanimate a severed head, but how would one hold a conversation with it when its vocal chords have been cut? Well, The Revenant offers a suggestion that's as hilarious as it is unexpected.
The cast is solid, but leading men David Anders and Chris Wylde really stand out. Anders in particular impresses, thanks to the humanity he brings to Bart. Wylde should be commended for the way he adapts, the comedy sidekick evolving into something far more interesting and intense.
Despite my unbridled love for The Revenant, I should offer one word of caution. If you are going into the film expecting a mindless 90-minutes of splatter and laughs, chances are you may come away disappointed. The Revenant clocks in at a little under two hours, and moves into increasingly dark territory at the expense of the laughs. While this actually produces a richer experience, the very same ambition could prove disconcerting for less demanding viewers.
The Region 2 DVD sports an impressive standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Black levels are especially strong, adding depth to a sharp image packed with detail. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix doesn't offer anything exceptional, but does the job without any flaws.
Bonus features kick off with three audio commentaries featuring the main cast, director, and visual effects team each offering their thoughts. With so many people contributing, there's plenty of information packed into these tracks. We also get 12-minutes of deleted scenes, and a 13-minute making-of featurette -- "Making The Revenant" -- which pales in comparison to the commentaries.
The fact that The Revenant seems to have been stuck in limbo since 2009 is a poor reflection on the current state of horror cinema. It's inexcusable that such an inventive, funny, and altogether well made picture should be left to rot, while lesser efforts are granted a wide release. Now that it's been set free, there is absolutely no excuse to miss this film. Beg, borrow, or do things you won't be proud to see it.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes