The Revenant is one of the more interesting direct-to-DVD/VOD releases you’re likely to see. On the surface, it smacks of cheap SyFy/Asylum films-esque tooth-rotting junkiness. Yet it’s far smarter — and far funnier — than the conventional crappy genre release. It stumbles a bit here and there, lurching around it’s clumsy third act and and ending that simply refuses to die, but it’s still a solid little horror/action/comedy hybrid. Though the film was completed in 2009, it’s only now finding its way to a wider release.
The film, written and directed by special effects artist D. Kerry Prior, is an amalgam of several horror-comedy tropes. It’s a little bit of Shaun of the Dead, a splash of Idle Hands, and maybe a spoonful of the spirit of Dead Alive. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some originality of its own — it does. But it also wears its influences pretty openly on its blood-soaked sleeve. The Revenant is about Bart Gregory (David Anders), a soldier who is killed in action in Afghanistan, returned home for a heroes funeral, and mourned by his best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) and his girlfriend Janet (Louise Griffiths). Except that several days after his burial, Bart rises from the dead, digs himself out of his grave, and is one seriously confused creature. He heads straight to Joey’s, and after getting over the initial shock, they decide that Bart is a revenant, a sort of ghoulish undead who must drink human blood to prevent further decay and eventually actual death.
What follows is, simply put, comic mayhem. Bart and Joey start small, by stealing from blood banks, but quickly escalate to becoming inadvertent zombie vigilantes — stopping crimes and then feeding on the perpetrators. After a particularly rough shootout, Joey ends up becoming a revenant as well, and they begin a sort of undead Robin Hood-meets-The Punisher rampage through their city, resulting in a cavalcade of gunfights, explosions, and throat-ripping good times. Yet at their cores, they’re still the same meathead buddies, as they loot the bodies of their kills, stockpiling guns, and going on booze- and cocaine-fueled benders.
The Revenant is equal parts zombie horror and gleeful, goofy buddy comedy. The zombie horror part is there in full, because the film is supremely gory, full of brains and guts and gore splattering everywhere. It pulls no punches with its gruesomeness, yet also uses it for comic effect. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed quite so hard at the sight of a man vomiting heinously ichorous blood. The film’s gorier humorous moments are dependent on a strong stomach and an appreciation for Stooges-esque humor, with several jokes going on for a solid couple of minutes longer than one would expect, creating that awkward sense of discomfort that you’ll either love or roll your eyes over. For me, it was usually the former, but occasionally the jokes do stumble and fall flat.
The problems with the film do occasionally threaten to derail its enjoyment. While Joey and Bart are often hysterically funny and create a solid rapport onscreen, the supporting cast — notably a wooden Griffiths as the not-quite-dutiful girlfriend and Jacy King as the bitchy friend (it’s also guilty of heavily cliched characters) — isn’t particularly engaging. Worse yet is the aforementioned third act, which drags on longer than it needs to. The film has a slow-burning start that was actually quite refreshing, eschewing the need to charge headfirst into the story and instead let it develop a bit. Yet the back end of it staggers a bit, trying to inject a bit too much seriousness into the tale. There’s also some head-scratching character developments that were a bit too much of an abrupt departure, becoming more frustrating than fun. Finally, the ending — or endings — felt like the result of too many ideas crammed into one story, with the film ending… and then ending… and then ending. Perhaps some ideas were best left to another movie, rather than the inchoate blender of plotlines that dragged down the film’s conclusion.
While it’s hardly destined for greatness, there is some goofy, gory fun to be had with The Revenant. Its greatest failings are the moments when it takes itself too seriously and a propensity for lumbering through its final third, which does kill some of the enjoyment. Fortunately, it’s routinely clever and funny, and often flat-out hilarious — assuming you’ve the stomach for its brand of hilarity. But as long as you like your dick jokes mixed with shoot-outs, blood-vomit and the occasional dismemberment, you’ll be OK.
The Revenant comes to VOD and select theaters on August 24th.