★★★★☆

The Retaliators is a rock ‘n’ roll ride into the freaky side of vengeance. Bridget Smith and Samuel Gonzalez Jr’s bloody thriller transgressively argues for violence as a rejuvenating force, a great problem-solver, and eye-for-an-eye revenge being a righteous act.

Written by first-time screenwriters Darren and Jeff Allen Geare, The Retaliators deserves praise for its storytelling and plotting. For a good hour or so, the direction in which the film heads is destination unknown. This withholding until the last 30 minutes affords Smith and Gonzalez’s movie a palpable tension and pervading mystery.

Bishop (Michael Lombardi) is a local pastor preaching the Lord to his flock, and a single dad raising two girls. When he allows his teen daughter Sarah (Katie Kelly) to attend a Christmas Eve party, tragedy strikes. Sarah, while filling up the tank of her car at a local petrol station, sees something she shouldn’t. Murdered by a psycho, the padre’s inner Old Testament wrath is unleashed, and he sets off on what you’d call a roaring rampage.

The Retaliators’ might well alarm some with its unusual stance on the subject matter, but there’s a lot here that’s served tongue-in-cheek, a lampooning of machismo and American bloodthirsty fantasy. Hats off too, for a brilliantly done homage to the montage sequences in Rocky IV (1985), furthering the point this is all intended as a horror comedy, an amusing take on American masculinity in crisis and the country’s deeply embedded lone hero mythology.   

Arrow Video FrightFest runs from Thurs 26th August to Monday 30th at the Cineworld Empire, Leicester Square. The digital event, Best of the Fest, runs from 1st to 5th September. For tickets, digital event and Covid 19 health policy information, click here.

Martyn Conterio | @martynconterio