Movie Review (Arrow Video FrightFest): The Retaliators

September 2, 2021

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

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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