The seemingly unlikely mix of monster movies and comedy that seeks to bring laughs to the horror genre is not as uncommon or new as most people think. Go back and watch all of those early classic creature features from Universal, and you'll see that the occasional bit of comedy has been an integral element to the horror film for a long time. As a genre, the horror-comedy came into its own in the 1980s with a long list of films that includes Motel Hell, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, and, of course, arguably the greatest horror-comedy of all time, director Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead. These three films in particular exist not as horror films that have comedic elements, or comedies that delve into the monstrous, but rather very specific hybrids that maintain a fine-tuned balanced between the laughs and the frights. This very specific genre has evolved over the years, and resulted in some great entries, including Peter Jackson's Brain Dead (a.k.a. Dead Alive) and Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, but it remains a difficult genre to effectively pull off. The Revenant, though not as successful as some of the more classic genre titles, has emerged as a worthwhile entry.
Bart Gregory (David Anders) is a soldier killed in action during the Gulf War. His body is returned to the states, where it is buried in Los Angeles while his distraught girlfriend Janet (Louise Griffiths) and his best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) grieve. But Joey's sadness is turned to terror when Bart wakes in his coffin, claws his way out of the grave, and comes knocking in the middle of the night. At first neither Bart nor Joey can make sense of this resurrection, and neither wants to accept that Bart is really back from the dead, which of course makes him the undead. Soon, however, it is clear that Bart is in fact one of the undead--a revenant--and that he must drink blood to keep from decomposing. Finding blood to drink is more difficult than one might thing, and before long the not-so-dynamic duo resort to vigilantism--hunting and killing criminals, who become the source of Bart's sustenance.
Written and directed by Kerry Prior, The Revenant has at its core a solid idea that is by and large well-executed. Its greatest strengths are the initial concept, the performance by Anders, and the impressive production values and special effects that give the film an accomplished and assured look. On the flip side, the movie runs a bit too long, and is lacking the type of character development and sense of conflict you might hope for in a movie that runs nearly two hours. It is as if The Revenant wants to be a bit more epic in the story it is telling, but only pads its running time with moments found in traditional exploitation fare as opposed to giving the audience something to really think about. I can think of at least three things that could have potentially made the Revenant a better movie, but that's not the movie I'm reviewing. And as it stands, though the film is far from perfect, it is entertaining.
The Revenant works best as a comedy and a showcase for the special effects--both the impressive gore effects and the not-so-obvious digital effects. As a horror film, however, it isn't all that scary, relying more on effects to potential gross out the audience than anything that can be considered genuinely horrifying. But again, as with the other weak points of the film, none of it is enough to stop The Revenant from being entertaining. The film is especially effective in the final act, and features one of the best endings I've seen in a horror movie in a very long time. Writer-director Kerry Prior has crafted a refreshing take on the vampire film, and overall, the strong points of The Revenant outweigh the weak points, and film comes out as a consistently entertaining movie that is well worth watching.
The Revenant is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture image and the transfer is clean, with sharp contrast of colors and visible signs of image defects or artifacts.
The Revenant is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital in English. The sound mix is clear and clean, with consistent levels and separation between dialog and music.
Two separate audio commentaries--one with writer-director Kerry Prior and one with the cast--provides possibly more information about The Revenant than anyone could possibly hope for (unless they are the most diehard of fans). My preference is Prior's commentary (but they may just be me). There is a brief "making of" featurette that is something of a disappointment, especially given the amount of special effects used in the film. A selection of deleted/extended scenes is fine, but as with most scenes that never make it in a movie, you come to realize that there is a reason they've been deleted. Anyone who really loves the film, or audio commentaries in general, will get some extra value out of the bonus material, but there's nothing among the extras that makes or breaks this disc.
The Revenant is an entertaining entry in the horror-comedy genre, though stronger on the comedy end of the spectrum. The lead performance by David Anders, the direction by Kerry prior, and the impressive effects are enough to make the film worth watching. Definitely, a cut above much of the other horror stuff floating around out there these days.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]