Fantastic Fest: A rave for the zombie comedy 'The Revenant'
I love Fantastic Fest, in my mind the entire month of September should be declared Fantastic Festivus, a national holiday in which every single movie theater in America should be given over to Tim League to play a kaleidoscope of cinema that will renew and destroy our minds all in one mighty swing of the motion picture mallet. During this holiday, we would have the presentation of the cine-gem; the one movie that stands out above and beyond anyone’s expectations of what they’re about to experience. At last year’s Fantastic Fest, it was unarguably “Let the Right One In”. This year, for me so far, it’s “Revenant”.
I had no idea going into this movie what it was about other than the title. I heard a little buzz that it was supposed to be something pretty great, but beyond that, no idea.
The film starts off at Bart’s (David Anders , "Heroes," "Alias") military funeral with his girlfriend standing over his open casket, broken and sobbing, trying to figure out a way to place a note she wrote for him in his rigor mortised hands. Afterwards, we see a few other mourners at the funeral including Bart’s best friend Joey played by comedic actor Chris Wylde, who is getting pissed off at the priest presiding over the service because he feels like the priest is trying to say since Bart wasn’t a faithful man, his best friend was now residing comfortably in Hell. Now, during and after the movie I barely recalled who Chris Wylde was. I vaguely remembered his TV comedy show that was on briefly in 2001. I’ll say this with confidence, if you have any ill pre-conceived ideas of Wylde and his ability as a comedic actor; check them at the door, because he’s amazingly funny in “Revenant”.
As you could guess from the title of the film, Bart doesn’t stay in the ground very long. Returning from the dead as a decomposing corpse every sunset, and dying again every sunrise, Bart has a real problem and a new hunger pang he can’t quite pin down. He immediately goes to his best friend and pot dealer Joey to help him try to figure out what to do next. Joey reacts appropriately to the walking corpse of his best friend showing up at his front door the night he helped place him six feet under, in a scene that had the audience laughing so hard we were all missing some dialogue. From there, the film quickly spirals from a buddy comedy into a dark and swirling mind-[expletive]. (Side note: I just had to ask Drew if I could use the word “mind-[expletve]” on Hitfix. I was relived when he said I could as long as it was somewhat buried in the write up, because honestly, I’m not sure how to talk about “Revenant” without the words “twisted mind-[expletive]” in here someplace) [Editor's note: Nope, Drew spoke too soon.] I would go on about the story, but honestly, it’s something that should be seen with as little knowledge of the plot going in as possible. Let’s just say it involves a lot of chunky blood and eager bullets.
The only negative thought I had about the movie is that it runs a wee bit too long and has a few slow downs here and there. I know its still a work in progress so this could, and probably will be, tweaked. If I had to target one specific area of the film that I thought there was the biggest slow down, I would say the third act. I feel like the movie could be tightened up there, pace and time wise, to address the runtime issue. But that said, it’s one of those things that if someone asked me “what should go?” I would be hard pressed to say any whole scene should be lopped off completely because it’s all great stuff. To quote “Knocked Up” in Alan Tudyk’s executive voice “just tighten up, you know, tight”.
The biggest compliment I can give to writer/director Kerry Prior is that if someone told me this was a lost film from the 70’s or 80’s, that Carpenter, Verhoeven, Romero or Cronenberg made, it wouldn’t be a hard sell. The film is funny, but works in a very dark and grounded universe. The practical FX are melded and aided perfectly by the masterful visual cg work and gives the whole film a very gritty and realistically horrific frame. There is also a scene with a sex toy in this movie that rivals the Coen’s bit in “Burn After Reading”, brilliant.
David Anders also continues to impress me as an actor. I really liked his work in "Heroes," but he wasn’t given much to do in that series. Here he really shines in “Revenant” as a subtlety powerful and versatile acting voice and feels like one of those guys on the edge of jumping over to the upper part of the A-list in a big way.
Overall this movie is a real gem and deserves a wide release here in the states to shake us out of this remake/retread horror trend. “Revenant” is clever and hilariously dark, and movie fans are starving for this kind of originality to cleanse the pallet from all the bland genre meals we’ve been served in theaters over the last few years. We’re ready, please make it happen.
Expectation – 6/10 Final Rating – 9/10