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Screamfest 2021 Review: The Retaliators

A muddled heavy metal tale of revenge.

by Jacob Davison

The cycle and morality of revenge has been a popular subject for horror movie over the years. From The Phantom of the Opera to Mandy, plots of terror and bloody vengeance have been a cornerstone of the genre. As well as the moral and legal ramifications of such bloody rampages of reprisal.  Which leads us to the latest in such a sub-genre, The Retaliators.

The story follows small town Pastor, Bishop (Michale Lombardi, Rescue Me) as his idyllic life and family is shattered after the brutal murder of his eldest daughter by a psychopathic criminal named Ram Kady (Joseph Gatt, Game of Thrones) who’s on the run himself after double crossing a drug deal. As the police and gangsters chase after Kady, Bishop finds himself falling into an underground organization that seeks revenge instead of justice for victims like him. Will Bishop give in, or will it lead to even worse disaster for himself and those around him?

The Retaliators has a fascinating premise that due to its rather disjointed nature is underutilized and just doesn’t quite mesh with how the filmmakers want to present it. Without going to heavy into spoilers, Kady is captured by the mysterious proprietor of the Hostel meets Death Wish organization and Bishop is put into a position to torture him along with the myriad of other criminals and degenerates that are locked up. Bishop ends up pitying them and releasing them… leading to him having to fight and kill the mass of murderers anyway. It’s just difficult to try and grasp the underlying moral tale considering how back and forth things go.

It’s because of this that The Retaliators reminds me of reactionary grindhouse horror of old such as If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? and Blood Freak that both tried to present moralist and sometimes religious morality tales but the message is muddled by the sheer absurdity and bloodshed of the films themselves. In The Retaliators we have murderous bikers stabbing rivals for info among drug addled prostitutes while Bishop has his parallel family storyline that feels more at home in a Hallmark movie. A murderous serial killer played by Papa Roach’s Jacob Shaddix released from prison at one point despite having killed a hostage in front of the police due to a governor’s relaxed prison policy. And a bookending of whether or not Bishop should stand up for himself against rude people at a Christmas tree lot and later a batting cage.  Which isn’t to say this isn’t still entertaining, of course.

The intro starts off strong with a couple of girls in a broken down van getting attacked by the horde, though this serves mainly as a quick paced start to the story though mostly unrelated. Bishop having collided with the van and helpfully explaining that ‘they’re not zombies.’ It’s an over the top movie, but one that can be appreciated if not taken too seriously. As well, if you’re a fan of heavy metal the movie prominently features the likes of Five Finger Death Punch, Ice Nine Kills, The Hu, and more in the story and with an equally heavy soundtrack.

So, if you can get past some of the ridiculousness and flaws, The Retaliators does make for a grisly and entertaining watch.


2 and a half out of 5 Eyes

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