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The Revenant (2009) artwork

The Revenant (2009)

29th March 2012

When Bart, a soldier serving in Iraq, wakes up the morning after his own funeral, he does what every normal person does when climbing out of a coffin - head off to see his best friend and carry on life as normal. Unfortunately, there's a slight problem in that normality... he needs to drink blood to stop his body decomposing.
David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffiths, Jacy King
Comedy, Crime, Fantasy
B
1 hour 53 minutes

Bart, a US soldier serving in Iraq, is caught in an ambush and killed whilst out on patrol. Brought home and buried with the usual military honours - and a rather strange service from the priest - his grave is about to be sealed when the tractor carrying the cover runs out of fuel. With nothing to hand, the grave diggers decide to call it a day and return the following day to finish things off. However, fate decides to play a different game as Bart wakes and is rather surprised to find himself in a coffin.

Not only does Bart discover that, in a manner of speaking, he's still alive - albeit with a rather large hole in his head and his lips sewn together - he has been resurrected as The Revenant - or one who has returned from the dead. Unable to ignore a newfound thirst for blood, Bart knows that there is one person in his life whom he can always rely on for help - his slacker best friend Joey. Although Joey seems to have painlessly moved on in life, and even though he's rather startled to find his best friend - his extremely dead best friend - knocking at his front door in the dead of the night, friends are friends and Bart is enthusiastically welcomed back, even as a zombie that needs to drink blood to stop the decomposition of his body.

Given that Bart would rather not murder someone to get blood, the duo does the next best thing available to them by raiding the local hospital's blood bank for vital supplies. With Bart now fully revived and regenerated, Bart and Joey hit the town and enjoy themselves as they use to - although once dawn arrives Bart has the tendency to revert to his normal state of being an inanimate corpse. But with no more blood to feast on, Bart will have to make another withdraw at the blood bank soon - that is until Bart is mugged outside of a convenience store and the assailant knocked out with a hefty blow to the head.

The best friend duo quickly realise that Bart's zombie-fied state is a perfect opportunity for them to become vigilante crime fighters and they soon begin killing the city's lowlife criminals who conveniently provide a steady supply of blood for Bart. However, their series of violent escapades soon become more gruesome than ever expected and, as their misadventures steadily escalate out of control, there's some horrifying consequences to be had...

Given that the film was made on a rather moderate budget, and that the film primarily takes place at night, the image reproduced by the Blu-ray is going to be a bit of challenge. Fortunately, The Revenant passes that challenge with relative ease, providing a sharp image, some good black levels and a reasonable level of detail throughout which ensures that the CGI effects and makeup or more convincing that your usual cheapo horror flick. It may look like something more akin with a television broadcast, and there can be the occasional issue with grain and softness, the print is nevertheless clean with no signs of damage. On the whole it's an enjoyable viewing experience which puts some more expensive Hollywood productions to shame. Mind you, I don't think I'd like to try viewing the DVD version as the extensive amount of dark scenes may be too much of a challenge to the technology and artifacting could become an issue.

Sound wise, it's reasonably good - but nothing particularly special for the genre of the film which, to be honest, is a bit of a shame. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does all of what is asked from it and it manages to reproduce some clear and precise dialogue in the centre and front channels along with a reasonable amount of activity in the surround channels. I would have liked to have heard a bit more "punch" from a more dynamic soundtrack, but given that the fantastic dialogue between Bart and Joey takes a prime role in this film, it's good enough and we don't end up being overwhelmed by all manner of gruesome sounds.

The menu system is a little on the basic side, with a grunge styled soundtrack accompanying the rather simply animated menu system with a few cut scenes showing in the background. Acess to the usual menu options of chapters, subtitles and extras are provided by a number of confusing symbols, but once you've worked out what's related to what you can head over to the good collection of extras which include six Deleted Scenes, a Making Of Featurette and three Audio Commentaries. It's just a pity it's missing the trailer - or some reaction from the many film festivals they visited.

The main extras on the disc are the Audio Commentaries. There's three to choose from – a Commentary by Director Kerry Prior, a Commentary by Actors David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffths and Jacy King and a Commentary by the Visual Effects Team. Given that they are three completely different takes on the film you can be sure that some of the yack tracks are going to be better than others – and, from the contributors listed above, it's not difficult to work out which ones are going to be far more interesting that the others.

It goes without saying that the most interesting and engaging of the three is the Commentary by Director Kerry Prior. With hardly a break throughout the film, Kerry talks about the film's reception at various festivals – including the wonderfully named Zompire Film Festival and how his ideas for the film came about. He even gives a few interesting insights on how Hollywood managed to muscle in on the vampire genre to warp a historic subject – including adding that vampires can turn into bats, can fly and burst into flame whenever they come into contact with the sun. If you think about it, he does indeed have a good point there. With plenty of interesting background information, Kerry even talks about how vampires came about. It was believed to originate in a 1754 book from Dom Augustin Calmet titled "A Treatise on Vampires and Revenants" which was commissioned by the Catholic church to help dispel vampirism and to stop locals desecrating graves and chopping off the heads of the dead. It's this folklore which is effectively the premise of the film. It's all interesting and insightful and well worth a listen.

Next up is the Commentary by Actors David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffths and Jacy King. Given that the first thing you hear is the opening of beer cans you can be assured that from the off it's going to be a silly and disjoined affair. And so it proves, with apparently one fixed microphone shared between the group resulting in some of the contributors more audible than others (at times, David Anders is so inaudible that I'm sure he's in the room next door). The track quickly becomes boring with the actors, who quite evidently have never seen the final cut of the film, spouting the usual inane drivel which gets progressively worse as the alcohol takes effect. If you want facts, stick with the director's commentary track instead.

The final yack track is the Commentary by the Visual Effects Team. If you like your techno-babble on the special effects and makeup then this is the commentary track for you. Ordinarily, I do like to listen to effects tracks, but this one was a little too heavy for me as the group talk between themselves about lenses, matting and all sorts of complicated production techniques. If you ever wondered why films were so expensive to make then this yack track may go some way to help explain why.

Although I often wonder about the value of including Deleted Scenes as an extra, running for around 13 minutes, the various scenes offered here offer very little extra to what's already in the film. Given the length of the film I'm sure they have simply been trimmed from the film for pacing purposes. Never the less, the image quality is on par with the main feature and no there's no grainy footage to be seen here. Running for 13 minutes, the Making Of Featurette does what it says on the tin. With lots of behind the camera footage of the various cast members and production crew messing about, it doesn't really provide a huge insight into the making of the film (you'll need to listen to far more useful audio commentaries for that) and what is shown is tended to be messed about with – such as the green screen effects. It's an OK featurette, but it doesn't really do the film justice – although I guess the silly nature of their antics does adhere to the overall nature of the film.

Written, directed, produced and by Kerry Prior, The Revenant is a great zombie buddie film which is in the ever so slightly same vain as Sean of the Dead. Although it's won a whole host of horror awards, including A Night of Horror International Film Festival 2010: "Best Film", Best Director", ScreamFest, Los Angeles 2009: "Best Make Up," "Best Special FX" and A Night of Horror International Film Festival 2010: "Best Film", Best Director" (Kerry Prior) to name just a few, quite why it took so long for it to be picked up by a major studio is a bit of a mystery as it's a cracking bit of fun that manages to offer a different slant on the usual zombie movie format. Already an acclaimed hit, The Revenant is surely destined to be one of those cult classics which, unfortunately, will probably mean that there'll be plenty of inferior copycat efforts.

Overall The Revenant is a cracking film and hugely entertaining with never a dull moment. It's funny, quirky, blood soaked (although not gory enough to put off the casual viewer) and remarkably poignant at times. It's simply a great addition to the genre and a great find by Universal Studios. It's even been released at a bargain price which more than ensures that the Blu-ray version should be top of your shopping list. If you're a zombie fan then this film really is a must! Highly recommended.

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Making the Revenant
  • Commentary by Director Kerry Prior
  • Commentary by Actors David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffths and Jacy King
  • Commentary by the Visual Effects Team
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