‘The Retaliators’ Has Its Moments

Better Noise Music

Directed by Michael Lombardi, Bridget Smith, and Samuel Gonzalez Jr., The Retaliators is a gory horror-thrilled set to an original heavy metal soundtrack that tells the story of a pastor tempted by revenge after the brutal murder of his daughter. But the film opens like any other horror: two young women take a wrong turn by a slaughterhouse sign and, as expected, end up with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after, they are attacked by the type of feral-looking man you might see in The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn. When a blood-covered man appears in a rescue attempt, one of the women cries, “There’s fucking zombies out there!” The man tells her, “Those aren’t zombies,” before being dragged under the car. 

As a pastor, Bishop (Lombardi) believes that two wrongs don’t make a right, and sometimes justice must be left in God’s hands. When a man steals their chosen Christmas tree from Bishop’s eldest daughter, Sarah (Katie Kelly), Bishop confronts him, knowing that Sarah and his youngest daughter, Rebecca (Abbey Hafer), are watching. Even after he’s forcefully shoved, Bishop decides to be the better person, and instead of retaliating, he wishes the antagonistic man a Merry Christmas. During a sermon, Bishop recounts this encounter and references a passage from Luke 18:3, which explains that when a sinner goes unpunished, he is only free from man’s law, yet God’s law prevails. “To any of us seeking justice in the world where it’s lacking, trust not in the sword, but in the grace of our Lord,” Bishop says. 

Better Noise Music

After a series of unfortunate events, violent drug dealer Ram Kady (Joseph Gatt) has a run-in with Sarah at a gas station when she notices someone in the trunk of his car. Ram pursues her, which results in her cruel murder. In the aftermath, Jed (Marc Menchaca), a cop with a tragic backstory, pulls Bishop into an underground organization that seeks revenge, instead of justice, for victims like them. Written by brothers Darren and Jeff Allen Geare, The Retaliators asks: if you could have a minute alone with the person who killed your loved one, would you take it? However, the film’s themes of revenge and justice, somewhat explored through the concept of religious forgiveness, it doesn’t necessarily provide any answers. 

The Retaliators features an original heavy metal soundtrack featuring songs from artists who appear in the film. Tommy Lee appears briefly as a DJ, but fans of Papa Roach and Five Finger Death Punch, in particular, should get a kick out of seeing these members portraying generic bad guys. Anchored by an original score from Emmy-winning composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (Stranger Things), the film also contains an original song performed by Mótley Crúe, Asking Alexandria, Ice Nine Kills, and From Ashes to New, which was written by Sixx:A.M.’s James Michael and Nikki Sixx. 

Better Noise Music

The Retaliators should be a constant, heavy-metal, action-packed gore-fest, but these elements are reserved for sporadic moments, especially the last 20 minutes. While the Geare brothers pay tribute to a beloved genre by introducing elements of the slasher, zombie, revenge thriller, drama, and torture porn—to name a few—and use many subplots to highlight these and the film’s themes of revenge, it results in the entire middle act being primarily dull, thus slowing down the pace and thrill of the whole movie. This includes a lengthy backstory for one of the characters, which features Papa Roach’s lead man Jaccoby Shaddix as a serial killer. In addition to this, any female characters seem to serve as nothing more than set dressing, used solely as plot devices for men. 

Aiming to present an intriguing moral dilemma while expressing love for the genre, The Retaliators is a little in over its head, but it’s still fun and entertaining for the most part. More horror films should include heavy metal needle drops to action-packed practical-gore sequences, where the film finds its strengths. It’s what the people want. 

The Retaliators opened in cinemas worldwide on September 14 and the original soundtrack was released on September 16 from Better Noise Music.

by Toni Stanger

Toni Stanger is a film and screenwriting graduate with a passion for cats, horror films and middle-aged actresses. Her favourite films include Gone Girl, Heathers, Scream and Excision. You can find her on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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