Fantastic Fest 09: THE REVENANT Review

Andrew Mack, Contributing Writer

[This review originally ran with the film's appearance at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and reappears now with the screening at Fantastic Fest.]

Soldier Bart Gregory is killed while fighting in the Middle East. He is given a military funeral and his fiance and best friend Joey are taking it especially hard. Before the lid can be put on his tomb, Bart rises from his coffin and climbs from his grave. Confused and desperate Bart goes to his best friend to try to figure out what is going on. Joey is shocked by the return of his dead, but also quick to point out how bad he smells, but they are after all best friends so he does what he can to help. Through a number of trials including a panic inducing visit to the local hospital they discover that the only thing that is going to keep Bart from decomposing any further is a healthy diet of Human blood. They aren't bad people, just a little confused and one is dead, so they figure out a way to get blood without harming innocents. They buy a police scanner and fight crime vigilante style. Bart then drinks the blood of the bad guys and no one gets hurt. But as things are wont to do their justice crusade spirals out of control and their friendship will be tested.

So we have to start with what a revenant is. Following Joey's lead in the film I went to the internet to find out more. A renvenant is animated corpse that returns from the grave to terrorize the living. The word "revenant" is derived from the French, revenir, "to return"; in French, "revenant" means "returning". The appropriate response is usually exhumation, followed by some form of decapitation, and burning or removal of the heart. Several stories imply that sucking of blood has occurred. Because of this, revenants have sometimes been described as "vampires" by a number of authors of popular books about vampire legends... Et voila. Bart is a Revenant!

The chemistry of the lead actors David Anders [Bart] and Chris Wylde [Joey] and Kerry Prior's comedic writing are key to any success this film musters up. Very much a labor of love of Prior he wrote, produced, edited and directed this feature. Mostly known for his work in special effects on films such as the Phantasm franchise, Bubba Ho-tep and a Nightmare on Elm Street film, too name a few, he's only had one other opportunity to write and direct and that film was called Roadkill, way back in 1996. But here it is his comedic timing and writing that are the big pay off.

I like Prior's script and its comedic elements. There are a lot of laughs in this film and the chemistry between Anders and Wylde is as good as any other buddy comedy duo. Often draped in dark humour we watch as a friendship is resumed with nary a stumbling block, well, with exception to the smell, the black vomit, Bart's passing out at sunrise, and their attempts to keep Bart's fiancé in the dark. And as the story takes its turns into humbly obvious directions and tensions increase the script had done enough to keep us interested to see how this tested friendship will endure. After the story of Bart and Joey unfolds and resolves the story does take an odd turn of sorts and I don't know if am completely satisfied with it but it does complement and act as a bookend piece to the military funeral at the beginning. Military being the key word here- not funeral.

Prior's film does bear the marks of independence and a limited budget. Only some of the green screen effects were dodgy. But the makeup department deserves praise for great work on their undead. And anyone who gets the chance to see this film will all share in the revelation of how you can make sense of the ramblings of a severed head. It's all about the vibrations.

Overall though I found it to be an enjoyable time. Not revolutionary or life changing but you will at least leave entertained.

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