Falling to pieces is no way to go through life, but death is another matter, as evidenced by “The Revenant,” an often hilarious living-dead comedy that just had to happen, given the current hunger for zombies, vampires and other things that refuse to keel over. Taking a matter-of-fact approach to the undead — what would people actually do if they’d buried their friend and he knocked on the door? — writer-director Kerry Prior’s film goes more than a bit off the rails of good taste but is a must-see for genre fans and those with sturdy constitutions.
Chris Wylde gives the standout perf here as Joey, the living half (for a while, at least) half of “The Revenant’s” principal duo. A stoner weasel, Joey is very sorry that his friend Bart (the terrific David Anders) was killed during a sneak attack in Iraq. But he’s not so sorry that he won’t sleep with Bart’s girlfriend, Janet (Louise Griffiths), right after the funeral, or that he won’t hit Bart in the head with a baseball bat when the supposed-to-be-dead guy shows up at his door one night.
Some of the pic’s better moments occur during that initial meeting. Neither Bart nor Joey knows what’s happening, and their vulgarity-laced exchanges seem to be precisely what would transpire, under the circumstances. “You look awful,” Joey says. “If you were really his friend,” says their mutual buddy Mathilda (Jacy King), “you’d cut off his head.”
Bart has apparently and inexplicably come back from Baghdad a vampire: He thirsts for blood, lest he decompose further. During one standout scene, Bart faces off with a blood-bank technician (Yvette Freeman, excellent) who thinks he’s part of some weird and possibly satanic cult. (“I can’t indiscriminately dole out blood to every strung-out buffoon who wanders in off the streets,” she tells him. “Have you heard about Dianetics?”) The blood bank being a dead end, so to speak, Bart starts randomly tapping victims, until he and Joey eventually become Los Angeles’ “vigilante gunslingers,” stopping criminals and, just coincidentally, draining their circulatory systems.
The people Bart puts the bite on, of course, have to have their heads cut off, lest they come back for revenge, and Joey and Bart proceed to fill up the Los Angeles River with bodies and parts. There’s very little Prior isn’t willing to put front and center, from Bart’s black-bile-spewing gastro attacks to the various bloodlettings that punctuate the pic. It’s all deliciously ghastly, and done with a great deal of panache.
“The Revenant” (a title defined here as “one who returns from the dead in corporeal form”) goes in several directions, from the initial vampire tale to the crime-fighting episode to the immortality-isn’t-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be sequences. The ending is spectacular, even if getting there starts to require some patience; mostly, the film is gloriously gory, and far funnier than a movie about dead people has a right to be.
Production values are skewed toward the special effects, which in some instances are startlingly effective, especially given the low-budget indie flavor of the characters and the comedy. When the helicopters come in, for instance, there’s an element of surprise that really works.