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Fantastic Fest Review: The Revenant

By  · Published on October 7th, 2009

In the huge web of vampire and zombie flicks that are popping up out of their development graves to attack the unwitting citizens of the multiplex world, what we seem to be missing is an intimate look at the world from the eyes of someone who has just recently rejoined the land of the living. The good news is that a little film called The Revenant is coming to the rescue. The bad news is that it’s not very good. Yet.

Iraq War Veteran Bart (David Anders) comes home in a body bag, but he doesn’t stay in the ground for long. He comes to his best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) for help and they both enter a life of finding human blood so that Bart can avoid decomposing.

First of all, there is a lot wrong with this movie. The pacing is slow due to more than a few scenes that do nothing to advance the story or help mold the characters. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the scenes were fun, but for the most part the extraneous scenes just aren’t all that funny.

Beyond that, a lot of the dialog seems improvised, and not in a good way.

But, and there’s a big but here, the negative aspects seem relegated to a handful of specific scenes meaning that as a movie it’s pretty boring, but as two hours worth of scenes that could use a keen editing knife, there’s a lot of potential here. In fact, I don’t think it’s a radical statement to claim that somewhere inside its two hour run time, there is a great hour and a half movie waiting to emerge.

The concept is a great one that hasn’t been explored all that much so far – a buddy comedy with sitcom sensibilities featuring the undead. There are elements of Fido that come to mind, but for the most part, writer/director Kerry Prior has figured out a great formula for finding dark humor in the task of hunting down bad guys and drinking their blood. Bart and Joey are bumbling morons and have almost no clue what they are doing most of the time which plays off the sunglasses and dark dusters they wear as trappings of a bad ass persona they can’t quite pull off.

The best part about the film is that it has a lot of heart. Without that, it could come off as another menial trip into the slapstick world with body parts in place of pies, but there are several sweet moments that reach down into the relationships between the characters and either draw out the inner tension or the inherent love that’s there. Sometimes the story gets tripped up by them, but for the most part the interactions between characters – especially Bart and his girlfriend – are heartfelt.

That being said, although there’s a great movie in there somewhere, there is still a weak link in Chris Wylde. Beyond being annoying, it’s clear that his improvisation skills are severely lacking, and he uses the word “fuck” like most people use “um.”

Clearly there’s some tension here because of how much potential the movie has and what it actually is. It’s not a typical film in many aspects, and it’s not a typical film that starts off with a lot of goodwill that it squanders throughout the run time. There are some genuinely funny moments, including a scene with a severed head and a vibrator that made everyone in the audience (including me) lose it. There are some great characters here struggling with something very complex and very strange in a naturally flawed, often funny way. But there’s also a lot of baggage.

The Upside: Good characters, some funny moments, and a great concept that’s executed interestingly.

The Downside: About a half an hour of crap weigh it down, and Chris Wylde should have been forced to stick to a script.

On the Side: Kerry Prior won for Best Horror Director at Fantastic Fest 2009.

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