D. Kerry Prior Talks The Revenant, in select theaters this weekend
Maybe bicycles, mold covered houses, and bagging on the president aren't your thing this weekend. Don't fret! If you like smart, funny story telling and plenty of gruesome gore, then guess what? You don't have to sit out this weekend at the box office! Director D. Kerry Prior has made just the movie just for you, and it's a kicking hell ride full of fun and gloriously horrible moments. Its The Revenant, and if you're a fan of old school Peter Jackson and movies like The Return of the Living Dead and Dead Heat, you don't want to miss out on this special treat.
The story follows fallen war hero Bart Gregory, who returns from the grave stateside after suffering massive head trauma in Iraq. He seeks out his hipster best friend Joey in need of blood, and the two become Los Angeles vigilantes, taking out the bad guys while replenishing Bart's insatiable thirst for viscera. It's a wildly hilarious and gruesome movie that stands as one of the year's best horror entries.
We caught up with D. Kerry Prior to chat a bit about the film, which has already had a long and illustrious life on the festival circuit before landing on screens this weekend. Here is our conversation.
This movie has been kicking around for a couple of years, before it got its official release here in the states. What's it like to have people fall in love with the movie back in 2009, and then continue to find it, and fall in love with it still, here in 2012?
D. Kerry Prior: I guess it's a surprise. I'm glad that people like it. I didn't expect it to take this long, between the film going on the festival circuit, and it getting a proper release in theaters, here in the states. That part has been fun. I am thrilled when people discover it, and enjoy it. It's really great.
I was actually watching an old video of you, from the festival circuit, where you did a Q&A. You mentioned that Revenant is based on experiences you had with five different friends passing away. This is a zombie movie. So that begs the question, how so?
D. Kerry Prior: That is just part of it. It is dedicated to five buddies of mine. Largely, that all came from going to their funerals, and witnessing all the drama that goes on there. There was more dealing with that aspect of the storyline in the festival cut of the movie. That version came out in 2009. We've pared that back for the current release...But certainly, the funeral scene was inspired by my experiences...I was always struck by the irony of going through this, its awkward, and very disorienting...To have a friend die...You have everyone gathering around to mourn this person, and there are things you have to deal with. You have to go through this process of dealing with the entire situation, and there are a lot of people that show up, ex-girlfriends...The hook-up between Joey and Janet was inspired...It never really happened to any of my friends before at a funeral. But, that kind of stuff does happening at weddings. I love weddings, and I find a similar irony with funerals and weddings...That was some of the inspiration behind it...There was also the thought, 'What would you do if your best friend died? And you had a chance to keep them around?" I wanted to make that the central theme, here...
Watching the first fifteen or twenty minutes of this movie, you have no idea how wild and crazy things are going to get. You have no idea of the carnage that is on its way. The set-up is pretty tame, it lulls you in...
D. Kerry Prior: In the festival cut, the overall tone was more prevalent in the beginning. Because there was a scene in the opening of the festival cut that alluded to what this film was actually going to be. What happened was, that scene was excised from the film. We had to cut to get back to that place. But I think it works, because once you cut that back, you start to take audiences by surprise. You know? That whole opening sequence in Iraq wasn't originally in the festival cut. We added that. We couldn't keep everything in, because that festival cut was already too long. We had to keep things popping. That's the tragedy of making something people will still have the patience to sit and watch.
How much did you actually take out of the film? I've noticed a couple of different run times...
D. Kerry Prior: It's interesting. It has always had a pretty long running time, and there are people that bitch about that. Just for the record, they are wrong. But at every festival we showed it at, we tweaked it in-between. Until the running time was under two hours. Then we took it back into the shed and retooled it. We compressed a lot of the action in the beginning. What that did was allow the action to move a lot faster. In turn, that allowed us to put in that scene in Iraq, which was never in the festival version. Starting in Iraq, and the nature of that, gives it a jumpstart. It lets you become acquainted with the characters a little bit longer after that. The truth is, the running time now isn't that much shorter now than it was during its festival run. But it moves a lot faster, and we were able to restore a couple of scenes that had been taken out.
I can't believe you didn't have that opening in there originally. That opening in Iraq just grabs you and pulls you into the life of this poor guy...
D. Kerry Prior: Yeah, well...You can see how that opening does make the film better, at the risk of spoiling anything for the audience...
I wanted to ask you about the epitaph that opens the film. Did this come from the tombstone of one of your five friends that passed away?
D. Kerry Prior: No, I literally found that in the Los Angeles Memorial Cemetery. It's the cemetery on the corner of Western and Washington, something like that...Anyway, there is a great big cemetery, and we got some great shots out of there. One time, I was wondering around, reading the tombstones, and that epitaph was right there, on one of them. We looked it up on line, it belongs to a poet...His name escapes me right now...I thought it was more appropriate to leave it as an uncredited tombstone. I would have to look it up, because I have forgotten the guy's name. "There is no death..." On the tombstone it was uncredited. We just used the first line of that poem. It was something that I found in the Los Angeles cemetery...
You have a background in make-up and special effects. How did that help in achieving the look of some of the zombie, and some of the other gore we see in the movie?
D. Kerry Prior: I tried to take cues from real corpses, and what dead things really look like. Not overdo it too much. Yeah, I don't think we went to great lengths. We wanted to be realistic. And I didn't want to pull any punches. I hate it when people get beat up, and they get punched in the face...A shot in the face swells up...It kills me when I see someone's eye get punched and it isn't ever swollen, instead it just turns black. There were details like that I was really insistent upon...But I don't think we did anything out of the norm, aside from the attention to detail.
Were you at all inspired by Dead Heat in making this movie? And are you glad this is getting released before R.I.P.D. comes out?
Its about two cops who work on a Living Dead police team as two zombies, cleaning up the streets. It's a lot like your movie, except the two leads are cops...
D. Kerry Prior: Wow! Well, okay...Good. So there is competition. We were in festivals in 2009. But that doesn't make a difference. No one has really seen our movie, yet, either...
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