Friday, April 06, 2012

The Revenant – review

Director: D. Kerry Prior

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

If you look at the UK cover of the Revenant it is termed as a “Gory zombiefest”. I must admit, by the trailer, that I had been reminded of Deathdream (albeit with a comedic edge). Now Deathdream straddled the vampire and zombie genres. The Revenant does not, it is a vampire movie, no question. I also really wanted to see the film and, subsequently, have had a long old wait for the DVD release.

The fact that I had been looking forward to seeing the film might have been a bad sign, expectations had been raised. That they had not been dashed by the end of the film, indeed I thought it better than expected, is a credit to the filmakers.

breaking orders
It begins with warfare and a truck driving through oilfields near Basra. One of the soldiers believes that he was put there to kill, another that he is there to protect US interests and create democracy. The driver is Bart Gregory (David Anders, the Vampire Diaries). He takes umbrage at the idea that there is no choice but to kill and chooses to switch off the truck’s headlights to prove a point. When they come back on they see, for a moment, a child in the road, before they drive over the infant. Bart stops the truck, against standing orders, and goes to look for the child. The child is ok but, as the lights of the trucks are cut off and Bart switches to night-vision, armed men open fire. He is shot and dragged off as gunfire is exchanged.

unsealing his lips
Bart’s funeral – back on US soil – and we see his girlfriend Janet (Louise Griffiths) put a letter in his uniform pocket. His best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) seems as angry as he is upset at being left. After the funeral they go to a bar with mutual friend, and wiccan nurse, Mathilda (Jacy King). By the end of the evening Joey and Janet end up together. We see the grave, not yet filled. We hear banging and then the coffin opens. Bart has awakened. He makes it to (what I took for) an embalming room. He tries to drink from a tap, can’t and puts a light on. His lips have been sewn together – a moment reminding me of Cronos. His eyes are clouded over.

Y-incision
He goes to Joey’s apartment and, once he has been bopped on the head by a baseball bat and finally gained entrance, the two men try to figure it all out. He is clearly mobile, but then there are his eyes and the fact that he smells like he is decaying. He has stomach pains and tries to eat but starts throwing up blackened blood. Joey takes him to the ER. The young doctor is somewhat freaked out and this is amplified when he opens his shirt and we see the Y incision. Alarms go off but Bart and Joey manage to slope off out of the hospital. Back at the apartment Bart collapses, dead once more.

trying to eat
Joey calls Mathilda round. She declares Bart a vampire and suggests that Joey needs to cut off his head and stake him through the heart. He swears her to secrecy. At nightfall Bart awakens – the revenant returns to a death state through the daylight hours. After another failed attempt to eat (it seems only solids are taboo, Bart can drink alcohol, so long as he doesn’t hunger at the time we later find). Joey takes him to a hospital where he raids a blood bank – leading to an amusing sequence with a nurse trying to convert him to scientology before she sees his eyes.

Joey awakened
Back at the apartment Joey discovers that crosses and holy water have no effect on Bart. He tells Bart the (internet researched) rules around undead identification, suggesting a possibility of zombie (discounting it) or vampire. He does call him a revenant and Bart pretty much fits that more traditional form of vampire. He has no fangs, if he doesn’t drink blood he starts to rot. He dies through the day and revives at night. As the film progresses he and Bart are mugged, he is shot and in turn feeds on the mugger. They start targeting criminals, gaining a press name of the vigilante gunslingers. When Joey is caught in the crossfire Bart saves his life by turning him.

Chris Wylde as Joey
What impressed me with the film is that I have barely touched some of the threads it then explores. The film never took a direction I expected. At one point I was reminded, obliquely, of the mall scene in Rabid and moments from the head of the film were ignored but not forgotten, revisited at the finale. The actual ending was especially unexpected – and yet tied into an event early in the film – but so wonderfully black humoured and macabre. The acting is top notch by those involved, and as an aside I think that if anyone remade Beetlejuice then Chris Wylde would make an excellent choice for the eponymous role.

the vigilante gunslingers
Was there a problem? Some might find the film a little overlong, it clocks in at just under two hours – that said the unexpected directions meant that I was enthralled and never really noticed the length until the credit’s rolled. The film is black humoured and of course humour is subjective – it worked for me. I really do recommend the Revenant. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Clark49 said...

looks interesting, must hunt it out