Vampires and zombie movies are a source of seemingly endless fascination for fans. But what would you do if you had to deal with such a thing in real life? And what if the creature in question was your best friend?

That's the premise of The Revenant, an indie-style comedy drama that occasionally ventures into very dark places. David Anders is Bart, a soldier serving in Iraq who unwisely breaks the rules and gets caught in an ambush. Back home, his friend Joey (Chris Wylde) wastes no time hitting on his girlfriend (Louise Girffiths, doing one of those prim English accents only Americans take seriously), but when Bart myseriously digs his way out of the grave and arrives on his doorstep, he's ready to help. He's less certain how to help. He takes Bart to the hospital, which seems reasonable, but they are forced to flee. So he calls a Wiccan friend who suggests cutting off Bart's head, an idea that naturally horrifies him.

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One bit of advice he does take from the Wiccan friend, when Bart proves unable to eat his favourite food, is that they must find him human blood for nourishment. The bulk of the film concerns itself with their attempts to approach this ethically, and with the moral shifts each of them undergoes. There is perhaps an attempt here to say something about the military experience but it's not very coherent and, notably, no part of the story achieves the tension of the opening scene. It's naive to pitch this kind of horror alongside that of war and expect it to make an impression.

It's a relief that, by and large, the film eschews broad comedy in favour of understated, observational stuff - it could certainly have been worse. The concept of watching friends tackle a problem like this has some value (though Shaun Of The Dead tackled similar themes with more skill) and there's a smattering of astute and entertaining moments. The downside of this approach, however, is that it relies on the charisma of the actors to draw us in. Anders is adequate but Wylde is weak and the supporting cast uneven. They are given no support by director D. Kerry Prior, whose lacklustre approach makes this feel more like an carpet warehouse advert than a feature film.

The deliberate lack of showiness is more effective when it comes to the visual effects, which blend in nicely and provide an important layer of realism as the script grows less coherent. The big problem here is that when the story is believable it's dull and when it stops being dull it becomes stupid. It's one of those pet projects, years in gestation, made by a team whose familiarity would appear to have made them oblivious to things going wrong.

The Revenant may well develop a hard core of fans willing to overlook its flaws and laud its moments of wit, but most viewers will find it a disappointment.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2012
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A man is determined to help his best friend who has come back from the dead.

Director: D Kerry Prior

Writer: D Kerry Prior

Starring: David Anders, Chris Wylde, Louise Griffiths, Jacy King

Year: 2009

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US


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