In my article about the Worst Horror Movies of 2015 (you can read it here), I included Quentin Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Looking back at it, I may have been overly harsh. A second viewing showed it wasn’t as bad as I first thought. Tarantino was looking back at all those old Western TV shows, where a group of bad guys would visit the set and take it over, and thus all the action would take place on the one set – only with his movie, there were no good guys (well, there was, but let’s not get into that).
I can get what he was trying for, even if I don’t agree with him). But for me, Westerns need VASTNESS. As most of the storylines in a Western tend to be small in nature – good guy after bad guy, stagecoach travellers on the trail, sheriff defending his town – you have to compensate with a grand canvas. And the American Wild West is among the most vast, most beautiful landscapes on this planet. Tarantino offered us a glimpse of the wilderness in the opening shots, but then confined the rest of his three hour movie inside the outpost where his characters were all holed up. But for me, a Western confined mostly indoors is like a porn film where they don’t do anything more than kiss (in other words, a documentary about my sex life in high school).
THE REVENANT, on the other hand, understands what we need to see. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, fresh from his Oscar win last year with BIRDMAN (not the cartoon character who was the lawyer, sadly), helmed this tale of revenge and survival that was allegedly based on a true story, and, like THE HATEFUL EIGHT, may not be ostensibly a horror movie but definitely possesses horrific elements. And a whole lot more.
The movie is set in the Rocky Mountains of the 1830s, an area still controlled by Native American tribes like the Pawnee and the Arikara, but are now being intruded upon by French and American trappers (and yeah, sorry guys, but these immigrants are not gonna go away). Hunter and guide Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), a half-Pawnee boy, are scouting for an American trapping party led by Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). Glass and Hawk get the respect of Captain Henry and the other men – with the exception of trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, MAD MAX FURY ROAD), who’s definitely feeling Co-Star Envy.
Following an attack by the Arikara (a superb sequence that glides from attacker to victim as each becomes the other and the battle shifts before your very eyes), Henry listens to Glass’ suggestion and abandons their boats and their furs to lead the surviving members of their party overland. Things go from bad to worse when, while scouting ahead, Glass comes upon some bear cubs, and is promptly attacked by their mother. This is another gripping scene, using a combination of CGI and animatronics (and, yes, terrific acting chops from DiCaprio), that gives a terrifyingly realistic recreation of how a bear would maul its prey. Of course, some of the shots of this scene, leaked onto the Interwebs, make it look as if the bear was being a bit more, ah, amorous, with Leo. But then you people are a bunch of freaking perverts, you hear me?
Glass barely survives, but despite the danger, the honorable Captain Henry is reluctant to leave Glass behind while he’s alive, but eventually relents, leaving him in the care of Hawk, young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter)… and Fitzgerald. And if you think that’s about as bad a decision as leaving Bill Cosby to escort your girlfriend home, give yourself a No-Prize. Fitzgerald, greedy for the money Captain Henry has offered to stay with Glass but also aware of the imminent danger, takes every opportunity when he’s with to euthanize Glass. Caught at it by Glass’ son, Fitzgerald kills him before the helpless Glass, before Fitzgerald leaves him buried alive, heading back to the fort with the guileless Bridger.
But Glass survives, and, driven by the desire to get back to the fort and go Full On Medieval on Fitzgerald’s ass, literally crawls out his grave, mends himself as best he can, and makes his way back, avoiding the still-pursuing Arikara (who it’s revealed have pretty legitimate reasons for hunting Whites) and other deadly forces.
THE REVENANT spans a grueling two and a half hours
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. Yippee Kai Yay…