“Undead” is a very broad term, if you think about it. Vampires are undead, obviously, but so are ghosts, zombies, and mummies. And since very few of those creatures are able to empathize with the plight of being human, there needs to be something in between: a creature that walks and talks and gets emotional like a living person … but still needs to eat human flesh, brains, or blood -- because that’s what undead things do. By law, there has to be a downside to being undead.
Dictionary.com defines “revenant” as “a person who returns (from death),” and therein lies the clever hook of Kerry Prior’s crazy horror/action/comedy The Revenant: its anti-hero is not evil. He’s just a soldier who was killed in the line of fire, only to wake up in a coffin, lurch over to his best buddy’s house, and discover that being undead is a truly disgusting experience, regardless of how nice a guy you may be. So we go from a quick war movie to an astonishingly gross odd couple comedy (with brief detours into horror territory) before we settle on the meat of the matter: undead Bart and his adorably profane pal Joey have decided to use the powers of undead immortality to … brutally murder and devour the slimiest criminals they can find on the streets of Los Angeles.
Suffice to say that Bart and Joey have no trouble finding sleazy criminals on the streets of Los Angeles.
Truly ambitious (some could say scattershot) for a movie of such obviously modest budget, The Revenant more than makes up for with energy, ideas, and unexpected shocks what it lacks in a high-budget shine and super-fancy movie stars. More specifically: the two leads are great. As the morally-conflicted undead soldier Bart, David Anders goes from disgusting to funny to actually sort of sweet. (He also looks a lot like Neil Patrick Harris, who is also very funny.) As Joey, Chris Wilde is (or should be) some sort of comedic find. The actor almost goes too far with his raucous frat-boy side, but pulls it back at just the right moments. He also strikes a very strong chemistry with Anders and earns numerous chuckles on throwaway mumbles and well-timed dialogue barrages. Even if The Revenant didn’t have some fun ideas and a clever presentation, the two leads would be worth 90-some minutes.
Fortunately The Revenant does have a little something for all the various genre fans: most of the comedy works; the moments of action, gun play, carnage, etc., are all broadly entertaining; and while this is most assuredly more of a farce than it is a full-bore horror film, there’s no denying that Prior (an old-school visual effects veteran) is intent on filling his movie with all sorts of over-the-top gory mayhem. (If some of the CGI is a bit sketchy, that’s fine because the practical stuff is so joyously splattery.)
If The Revenant suffers from a lack of focus, and it does, that’s because it seemingly wants to sample from every damn genre on the menu. (I’m amazed it didn’t have a musical number.) While certainly broad and bizarre, and therefore not for all tastes, the flick earns credit for a being a zombie/buddy comedy that doesn’t steal jokes from Shaun of the Dead. Bonus points for including not one but two well-written supporting roles for females (both Louise Griffiths and Jacy King get a few choice moments) and a tone that somehow combines goofball comedy, over-the-top violence, and a bit of an anti-war message, and still manages to be likable. The Revenant may be a bit of a mess, but it's a consistently fun one, and that's more than most horror/comedies can say.