Fantastic Fest 2009
By Dave Campbell | October 15, 2009
Director: Kerry Prior
Writer(s): Kerry Prior
Starring: David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffiths, Jacy King, Emiliano Torres, DNA (Senyo Amoaku), Cathy Shim, David Ury, Wally White, Zana Zefi, Clint Jung
Here’s a little history lesson to set things up:
Revenant rev·e·nant Pronunciation: \ˈre-və-ˌnäⁿ, -nənt\ French, from present participle of revenir to return: one that returns after death or a long absence (Merriam-Webster).
In stories dating back to Medieval Folklore, the revenant are described as the walking dead, the undead, or vampires – animated corpses that are believed to return from the grave to torment the living. The belief of revenants originates from the universal ceremonial rituals to appease the dead and in most Medieval depictions they simply return to harass their surviving families and friends.
Colorfully journalized events of revenants emerged in Western Europe (Great Britain, Ireland) during the Middle Ages, with stories of revenants becoming personal and about a specific individual who had recently died. Legend and folklore continued on to depict revenants that returned to complete a specific goal or task, such as revenge against their killer. Though common in many ways to zombies in popular culture, the revenant accounts were never depicted as anonymous.
The Revenant follows the story of U.S. Officer First Class Bart Gregory (David Anders). Bart has perished during a rescue attempt that goes wrong while fighting in the Iraq war. His body has been brought back to the States so he can be morned and buried by his friends and family. The night after Bart’s funeral while his closest friends and lover drink to his existence, Bart rises from his coffin and out of his grave disoriented and decomposing. Panicked and confused, Bart desperately seeks the help of his best friend Joey Leubner (Chris Wylde) to help him make sense of what is going on. Bart is obviously “sick” and should be dead, so Joey is completely amazed and disturbed by his return. Bart dies again every day when the sun rises and comes “alive” again at night to feed. Regardless of this, Joey steps up to do what best friends do and helps his friend find new ways to survive – even if that means storming the city in their 1979 Camero raiding emergency room blood supplies and eventually becoming violent vigilantes taking out “baddies” for Bart to feed on – macabre mayhem ensues.
Very well directed at the hands of D. Kerry Prior (effects artist Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm II – IV, The Lost Boys, The Abyss), we are presented with performances you’d expect from a higher profile drama from David Anders (Alias, Heroes) and Chris Wylde (The Chris Wylde Show, Taboo). Prior has struck a chord with The Revenant unseen in other undead funnies, by putting together a darkly toned horror comedy that strays from the Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland category (which I like) and puts it in more of a category with under-appreciated films like Vampire’s Kiss, Near Dark, & Re-Animator.
The Revenant is richly written in such a way that it covers a lot of ground while touching on unexpected areas without becoming lost in itself. The scope of the story plays in such a way that leaves it open for sequels or even an expanded platform like an HBO or Showtime series (That’s right, I just pitched it). This was truly my favorite unexpected find from Fantastic Fest 2009, and it was also nice to see the very gracious director/writer/producer/editor Kerry Prior partaking in the week long Fest and being one of the most approachable down to earth filmmakers I’ve ever met. Genre fans will love the depth and care that went into the dialog, effects, and overall quality of the lean indie product. Pray to the deity or scientist of your choice that this film lands a nice distribution deal soon, because this tasty nugget is a treasure to be seen.