Film Review: The Revenant

Already a genre festival favorite, writer-director Kerry Prior's very dark comedy, in which a soldier killed in Iraq comes back from the grave an intelligent, blood-drinking zombie, will appeal to horror fans looking for something a little different, b

Cut down in a hail of bullets when he leaves the safety of his humvee to check on an injured child, Bart Gregory (David Anders, of TV's “The Vampire Diaries”) is shipped back to Los Angeles in a coffin and buried, surrounded by mourners who include his grieving girlfriend, Janet (Louise Griffiths), and closest friend, slacker goofball Joey (Chris Wylde). "I wish I could have just one more day with him," Janet sobs… Oh, the curse of answered prayers!

That said, it's not Janet's door zombie Bart shows up at in the middle of the night: It's Joey's. (Hmmm, maybe Janet was right to wonder whether Bart enlisted to avoid proposing to her.) In any event, after getting over the shock of entertaining a milky-eyed, dirt-caked Bart who smells like, well, a month-old corpse, vomits blood when he tries to eat and gets all corpsey at daybreak, Joey rallies. Because, hey, what's a little universe-upending weirdness between best buds, right?

While Bart's out cold on the living-room carpet, Joey busies himself trolling around the web and come nightfall, when Bart wakes up again, Joey is a font of freaky facts. Bart, he says, isn't a zombie at all—he's a revenant: a walking corpse who needs blood to stave off further decomposition. Raiding a hospital blood bank solves the problem in the short term, but the long-term implications are apparent: Bart's going to have to start killing people if he wants to keep himself together—Bart, the guy whose conscience and compassion for others got him killed. Fortunately, fate tosses a solution Bart's way in the form of a gun-crazy gangbanger: Bart kills him in self-defense, and once it's done it seems foolish to waste the guy's blood.

Et voila: moral dilemma solved. Bart and Joey go hunting for bad guys—in no short supply in L.A.—and after they've saved a few law-abiding citizens from night-crawling scum, the media dubs them the Vigilante Gunslingers. And then things get complicated, as they always do, especially after Janet finds out that Bart isn't as dead as she thought.

Horror buffs will recognize echoes of Bob Clark's 1972 Deathdream, but Prior's movie has a tone all its own, a kind of melancholy snark summed up in the recurring exclamation "You're such a dick!" as various characters betray and are betrayed by others. The film's low budget is never a liability, unless you value elaborate special effects above characterization, tidy plotting, sharp dialogue and onscreen chemistry between actors: Wylde and Anders spar like mismatched screwball-comedy adversaries entangled in a fine bromance.