I am a huge fan of “what if” films. What if the alien from Alien went up against a rough and tumble group of Space Marines? What if Freddy actual fought Jason? What if a zombie was cognizant and if that zombie were you, what would you do? The Revenant, starring David Anders and Chris Wylde not only answers that question but does so in such a gleeful fashion that you might wonder why we have had to sit through so many uninventive zombie movies when offerings such as this are on the table. I’m not going to say that it reinvents the zombie film but it manages to be so much fun that you could care less what it reinvents as long as it keeps doing what it does and it pretty much manages to do that for the bulk of its running time.
“…it manages to be so much fun that you could care less what it reinvents as long as it keeps doing what it does”
Its the middle of the night in war ravaged Iraq and Bart and the rest of his platoon are driving their humvee to an undisclosed location when Bart hits, what he believes to be a child, standing in the middle of the road. Much to the displeasure of his men Bart leaves the safety of the vehicle to check on the child only to get gunned down, shot in the head, and subsequently shipped back to the states for burial, leaving his man-child best friend and pining girlriend mourning his untimely death.
We all have friends like Bart’s best, Joey. Friends that while we were building our careers or fostering relationships or creating families were still spending their late nights playing Xbox, eating cold pizza and borrowing their rent money from their parents. Friends that allowed us to forget our stresses at work, the complications of our marriage or the doldrums of PTA meetings and slip back into those years where responsibilities took a back seat to having fun and plain old fucking off. These friends, while they may encourage us to call in sick to work or lie to our spouses about where we went drinking sometimes represent the last bastion of hope that our youth is still accessible, just within reach for us to pick up and try on for size when the pressures of the adult world become too much. sometimes, however, they are the proverbial bag of bricks that tumble across the ocean floor, pulling us down and slowing our progress now matter how hard we try to swim against their weight. Bart, for all of his good intentions and ambitions, just couldn’t pull free of the gravity of Joey’s lethargy, even in death, and that, is exactly where he winds up after clawing his way to thhe top of the fresh dirt covering his coffin.
Enter the smart divergence where The Revenant decides to play it loose and instead of Joey grappling with the horror of finding out that his dead best friend is back from the grave with a taste for fresh blood, he revels in it, seeing his new friend’s apparent invulnerabilities as an opportunity to elevate his own status. Wylde tears the role open as the two do what any self respecting team of zombie and human would do: they take arms and become fly-by-night vigilantes.. Robbing the dreggs of society…of their blood. It is this portion of the film that will immediately win most detractors over as the duo hop from convenience store to urban locale, easily putting themselves in the middle of heist, robbery and drug deal, soon enjoying the monetary fringe benfits as they lift more than plasma from their victims. This horror send up of Robin Hood works so well that, in fact, the movie could have relied on this one device alone to propel it to cult status.
Early on however we get the inkling that nothing good lasts forever. Bart, although dead, is still trying to carry on as thou death is just a temporary setback. When not robbing petty crooks of the red stuff, Bart is, albeit reluctantly at first, still seeing his girlfriend and as his situation brings himself closer to the limits of just what his supernatural affliction is capable of, that relationship strains the bond between he and Joey.
I’m not going to highlight The Revenant as the viewer really needs to see the film with a fresh pair of eyes that allows them to experience the surprises firsthand. Luckily, that is the word that most will walk way with after seeing the film: SURPRISES. The Revenant manages to pull them off with a competence rarely seen and at no point does the film seem to struggle with its ambitions. If the film will have any fault with its audience, it will be its gradual change of tone in its third act. Remember when I hinted at the subtext that “the party can’t go on forever”? Well when the lights go up and it’s last call on The Revenant the morose turn is noticeable and might throw people a little off the rails of the preceding roller coaster of comedy and action. this is not to say that the third act is ungrounded, unnecessary, or even unfitting of the film. It’s logical and sadly a little tragic, but it is framed in such an explosion of violence and weirdness that the climax takes this horror comedy and gives it a very real and disturbing resonance.In other words, even if you’ve come for the comedy, stay for the horror. The Revenant has already cemented it’s place in my top 5 of 2012 and I expect that upon further viewings it will secure a place among my all time favorites. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.