As Halloween draws closer, I’m in a constant search for some new horror flicks to mix into my usual lineup of 60s/70s and 80s gore-laden schlock flicks. THE RETALIATORS came across my handheld screen and the poster art alone was enough to draw me in. The synopsis is as follows: A good boy pastor goes through a hellish underground world of crime to seek vengeance for the death of his teenage daughter. Along the way, he finds that religious pacifism may not be the answer he needs.
The film opens with a relatively brutal scene and imagery that immediately led me to believe I was going to enjoy the ride I was strapped in for. If you’ve read my previous reviews, then you know I’m all about the gore. While sometimes it is necessary to push the plot along, I also enjoy blood-soaked scenes that are… less than necessary. I wasn’t exactly sure where this was going to take me, but I was ready. The premise alone was a hook. I mean we all love a good revenge film i.e. Mandy, Martyrs, or even the John Wick movies. Revenge is an easy plot to follow, but it’s all the better when it’s action-packed and has a few twists and turns.
The cast of THE RETALIATORS is chock-full of familiar faces. From Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee cameo as a DJ, the guitarist (Zoltan Bathory) and singer (Ivan L. Moody) of Five Finger Death Punch, a very familiar Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach (he’s from my hometown, Sacramento), and Spencer Charnas of the popular horror influenced band Ice Nine Kills. It seems that this film keeps rock and metal in its framework. Although, that’s pretty apparent as you watch the film and hear the soundtrack. Our leading role of Bishop played by Michael Lombardi (FX’s Rescued) acts his ass off as a father suffering the loss of his daughter and trying to balance his religious beliefs with the harsh reality he’s living through. We also see an intense performance from the clearly off-the-rails officer Jed played by Marc Menchaca (Ozark).
As the movie takes us into the dark, deep rabbit hole of its premise, I started to notice the insanity and influence of other films. The extreme imagery in some scenes reminds me of Rob Zombie’s films or even scenes from Hobo with a Shotgun. There are even mild levels of extremity that you can find in French New Wave extreme horror films like Among the Living or Haute Tension. It’s clear that THE RETALIATORS is influenced by some dark films, but it pulls it off in a way that is fitting without being so inspired it comes off as a “rip off” to viewers.
Since I’ve mentioned what appeared to be inspirations this movie has drawn from, it’s obvious that there’s on-screen gore. From decapitations to mutilated faces, THE RETALIATORS doesn’t short you on that gooey red stuff. Most of the effects appeared to be practical which, for the most part, is a horror fan’s wet dream. I know I’m all about the practical effects having worked on a yearly family haunt and special effects in the recently released horror flick, Slashlorette Party. I just think there’s something so much more real about using prosthetics even if they do look “cheesy”. The realness of holding the prosthetics in your hand and applying them to an actor is exciting. Especially when we get to see the payoff on film, even just for a brief moment.
The film does move at a steady pace which I felt was necessary for the buildup towards the end of the movie. There were a few wires I felt got crossed and we could have seen a little more of the biker crew seeking vengeance for a lost comrade. These little gripes aside, THE RETALIATORS held my attention through the entire hour and a half duration. There’s a brutal payoff at the end that I feel any horror fan could definitely appreciate.
THE RETALIATORS is a high-intensity, off-the-rails horror/thriller that will keep making your jaw drop and have you clinging to the edge of your seat. Add this flick to your list of horror Christmas flicks because, just like people argue about Die Hard, this too is a Christmas movie.
THE RETALIATORS will have its US Premiere as the Opening Night Film at Screamfest tonight! Let the redemption wash over you. Just maybe not necessarily in a religious sense.