The Retaliators ★★★ – Arrow Video Frightfest 2021

The Retaliators ★★★ – Arrow Video Frightfest 2021

What should be a standard revenge thriller takes a hard turn into the schlock, and it is all the better for it. While not perfect, The Retaliators blunt approach, coupled with Michael Lombardi’s performance, makes it an entertaining horror

An upstanding pastor John Bishop (Michael Lombardi), uncovers a dark and twisted underworld as he searches for answers surrounding his daughter’s brutal murder.

John Bishop is a mild-mannered man, not willing to confront those who wrong him in any way; he is someone who you can relate to even when he is covered with blood. Lombardi compels you with his transformation, and if the writing were a little stronger, it would be able to help this engrossing performance more than it does. What helps is that it is clear Lombardi knows what he has signed up for and takes that ball and thoroughly runs with it through the slightly leggy 97 minutes running time.

A lot is spoken about the cameo’s filled throughout this underground world, and while on occasion they don’t always work, they are harmless enough. For music fans, you will get a great little kick out of seeing these musicians act it up in the strangest, silliest of manners. Directors Samuel Gonzalez Jr and Bridget Smith make sure not to allow these bountiful cameos to distract you from the film. This is still very much a tale about the pastor’s search for the murderer of his daughter.

The Retaliators struggles a touch when it tries to grapple the ideas of grief of a child with the utter splatter gun madness that ensues. It does well at showing both ideas separately; it fails when it tries to run them together. A difficult task comes about when we see a character like our dear Pastor struggle with the needless loss of his daughter and go through what he does in the film. The idea that this man could do what he does in the manner he ends up doing, from when we first meet him, doesn’t connect.

The Retaliators' review: Dirs. Samuel Gonzalez & Bridget Smith [FrightFest]

By not meshing as well as it does, the feeling of The Retaliators being two different films rises within. A close enough comparison to this would be, say, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. Somehow he can combine the idea of loss and violence very well. It simply doesn’t work as well as it needs to, but not enough to distract you from what you see. Although, of course, writers Darren Geare and Jeff Allen Geare do some great work, and when they focus on Bishop’s loss, you are compelled with the film, equally, when it all goes off the rails, you sense everyone has jumped in with both feet, and you feel the need to do so yourself.

Sadly because they both work so well on their own, you want it to connect more, and it doesn’t have that in it. But, if you can get past that, which, to be fair, is easily done thanks to the performance of Lombardi, then there is something here that you can very much enjoy.

The true joy within the film is when it goes extreme with the violence and allows itself to accept it’s off the wall silliness and take those extreme chances. You get a clear enough idea from the opening that this will be a film that will have you sit upright as although the blood is over the top. There are some solid scares here, and the recap over Bishops’ death is indeed a chilling scene that you don’t expect in a film like this.

A solid bit of advice, do not go into this film expecting something serious and grounded; we have a film that, despite the efforts to have a bit of seriousness to it, accepts what it is and has a ball with it. Unfortunately, the Retaliators bloodily goes off on one, and if it had done so from the start, it would have been a far better film for it. What is left, though, is still a very entertaining splatter horror.


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