Strap on your seat belts and turn the volume up loud for The Retaliators (2021), a high-octane combination of revenge thriller, crime drama, and outright horror movie from codirectors Samuel Gonzalez Jr. and Bridget Smith. Power plays, power tools, and power chords abound in this gore-fueled exploitation shocker that serves up a fair amount of surprises.
In the film’s opening sequence, two women have trouble with their van and are attacked by what look to be either zombies or backwoods mutants (I won’t spoil what they actually are). A bloodied rescuer attempts to save one of them, laying the groundwork for the scare fare ahead.
Pastor John Bishop (Michael Lombardi) is the widowed father of two daughters, living in a peaceful, upscale small town. His teenage daughter Rebecca (Abbey Hafer) accidentally witnesses a crime in progress and is ruthlessly murdered by a vicious baddie named Ram Kady (Joseph Gatt). When local cop Jed (Marc Menchaca) offers Bishop an opportunity at revenge, the peaceful pastor finds himself conflicted — and also suddenly finds himself in the middle of a horrifying scenario. Meanwhile, there is a subplot about rival bike gangs and their turf war over drugs that works its way into the main plot.
The Retaliators doesn’t offer much variation with Bishop’s hero’s journey character arc — visual comparisons of the pastor with Bruce Campbell’s Ash from the Evil Dead franchise are an obvious nod — but the screenplay by Darren Geare and Jeff Allen Geare does serve up some jaw-dropping bombshells. The melding of the aforementioned genres isn’t always smooth, but as a noisy, grue-soaked thrill ride, smoothness and subtlety are not the intention here. Further proof of that are musical vignettes that include Bishop acting out his rage while pop metal plays.
Gonzales Jr. and Smith helm The Retaliators with elan, and the members of the game cast give it their all. The third act is a jaw-dropper, with Chekov’s wood chipper in tow. Fun final fact: This is a Christmas-set horror movie!
The Retaliators screens as part of London’s Arrow Video FrightFest, which ran an in-cinema lineup from August 26–30 and which runs an online digital lineup from September 1–5, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.frightfest.co.uk/.
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