When US soldier Bart (David Anders) is killed in combat in Iraq, you’d be forgiven for thinking his problems were pretty much over. Shipped home to California in a body bag, he’s treated to a hero’s funeral complete with flag-draped coffin, 21-gun salute and weeping fiancé Janet (Louise Griffiths).
However, once night falls, Brad wakes up. Decaying and confused, he claws his way out of the grave and calls on self-medicating best bud Joey (Chris Wylde). Together they work out that Bart has become one of the undead, a revenant – sort of halfway between a vampire and a zombie – who only becomes animate at night and must drink blood to sustain himself and stop the rot.
Ignoring the advice of Wiccan nurse Matty (Jacy King) who tells Joey to chop off Bart’s head and drive a stake through his heart, the boys rob a blood bank instead. But after a fatal encounter with a Mexican gangbanger, the boys embrace Bart’s new indestructible nature and hit the mean streets of LA as night-stalking vigilantes, robbing and killing gangsters, drug dealers and rapists to satiate Bart’s thirst for blood and Joey’s enthusiastic drug use, becoming folk heroes in the process. But what starts out as a crusade for justice soon spirals out of control…
If you love sitting in the dark (even of your own living room) feeling that delicious tingle of terror dance along your spine, if you love that almost sexual adrenaline jolt of pulse-pounding fear, if you love that reflexive laugh of hysteria or that churning feeling of dread, in short, if you love horror movies, truly love them, nothing will fill you full of dread faster than the words horror/comedy.
Face it, you can count on the stump of one severed hand how many horror/comedies are actually any good. Most plain don’t deliver on the horror front, they aren’t gross enough and there just aren’t enough scares. And they’re never very funny, you’re shortchanged on the comedy, they don’t make you bray with laughter, they don’t force you to spray beer through your nose the way a good comedy should. And don’t bother emailing me how good Shaun Of The Dead was because you’re wrong. Shaun Of The Dead wasn’t even as good as that episode of Spaced where Simon Pegg went mad because he’d played too much Resident Evil. Most horror/comedies just aren’t very good.
The Revenant though is good. Really good. An American Werewolf In London good. Re-Animator good. Damn, its good. The script by director Prior is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, the direction is tight and controlled and the make-up and effects are as good as you’d expect from a former special effects whiz. The action is sharp, the violence brutal and there’s enough splashy gore around to keep the most devoted splatter fan happy. The humour is deliciously dark; it’s hard to express just how pant-wettingly, hysterically funny watching your hero, a rotting corpse, uncontrollably puke black, tarry vomit over himself actually is whilst losing none of the inate horror. Similarly, a scene involving a severed head and a large pink vibrator of heroic dimensions may just be the sickest, guiltiest, funniest thing you’ll witness this year.
Though King and Griffiths don’t really have much to do, being called upon to be skeptical and sweet respectively, the film is built upon the chemistry of leads Anders and Wylde. A stalwart of TV shows like Alias and Heroes, Anders is terrific, essaying a sympathetic, befuddled monster, an essentially good, decent man trying, and failing to keep his horrific appetites in check. The bug-eyed Wylde meanwhile is hilarious; a cowardly, increasingly deranged, drug-fuelled weasel, who gets into the vigilante business for fun and profit, he resembles Pee-Wee Herman immediately after that unfortunate porn theatre bust. Together they bring a surprising amount of heart to a horror/buddy flick about zombies on a killing spree.
While it may be about twenty minutes too long and, as it lurches from horror to comedy, action to romance and back again to horror, the film’s final transformation into pitch-black, political satire with America’s War on Terror finally getting some bite may be a step too far, these are minor quibbles. When every other month seems to see the release of yet another cheap found-footage film, a Saw sequel or yet another Final Destination movie, it’s a crime that a film as good as The Revenant has been sitting on a shelf since 2009 waiting on a distributor. The Revenant is a true one-off; a smart, funny, ferocious horror movie which dares to be fresh, to try and be something different.
D. Kerry Prior
David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffiths, Jacy King, Emiliano Torres