THE RETALIATORS (2021)
Better Noise Films
Dir: Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Michael Lombardi, Bridget Smith
Written by: Darren Geare & Jeff Allen Geare
Starring: Michael Lombardi, March Mechca, Joseph Gatt, and Katie Kelly
I wasn’t sure how I’d react to THE RETALIATORS. As a confirmed ghost story fan, I tend to prefer a more slow burn (i.e. sedate) horror experience than the grindhouse, guts, and rock n roll promised in THE RETALIATORS’ poster & trailer.
What the heck – it’s time to get out of the cozy ghost story nook and take a trip to Goretown!
After a jarring cold open, I started to wonder if I’d accidentally started watching a Hallmark Channel adaptation of a Harlequin Love Inspired Christmas story, instead of a DEATH WISH-esque revenge horror thriller. The story proper begins with modern hip minister Bishop (co-director Michael Lombardi) navigating life as a single father to two daughters, and the first section of THE RETALIATORS sets up some rather ordinary dilemmas for the Bishop family.
Will older daughter Sarah (Katie Kelly) convince Dad to let her go to the school dance? (Yes)
Will younger sister Rebecca (Abbey Hafer) allow any exceptions to her strict “all gifts must be wrapped or they don’t count” policy? (Also Yes)
Will the magic of Christmas bring the gift of unexpected new love to the devoted, lonely minister? (Oh Holy Heck, no)
THE RETALIATORS feels like a feel-good holiday movie – until it doesn’t.
Just as I was wondering when Bishop would start retaliating after a devastating personal loss, a whiplash twist careened the story into a grindhouse survival horror, complete with scummy drug-dealing gang members, a nu-metal soundtrack, EVIL DEAD levels of gore, and backwoods murder houses.
From its’ WTF beginning and placid homey opening scenes to the gore-filled climax and sitcom-cute closing moment, THE RETALIATORS feels like an everything but the kitchen sink B movie mash-up, the movie equivalent of a Cotton Candy and Sardine Sandwich served in a grungy backwoods heavy metal hangout.
But… sometimes odd combinations work. And most of THE RETALIATORS works for me. Is it a great movie? While the makeup effects are top-notch, the performances in THE RETALIATORS are hit-and-miss. The story could’ve used a bit more showing, laying the groundwork for the big twist, and less monologuing about bleeding-heart judges and heavy-handed, motivation-providing flashbacks.
, but even as a visitor to the subgenre, individual parts don’t work for me, the bottom line is that I don’t regret the time spent watching it. If I was more into splatter & gore & metal, I might be a bigger fan.
As it is, THE RETALIATORS was an interesting, albeit gore-soaked, visit to the grindhouse neck of the horror woods.