Movie Review: The Retaliators feat. Jacoby Shaddix, Five Finger Death Punch, Spencer Charnas, and More

4/5

Looking for a schlocky B-movie horror with more family loyalty than Fast & Furious and more rock and metal stars than a festival line-up? The Retaliators has got you covered. With a climax heavily inspired by Evil Dead, it’s a horror with heart and a plot that might make you question your own morality.

The Retaliators was written by brothers Darren and Jeff Allen Geare and comes from an incredibly personal place in their lives, as they told Nightmarish Conjurings in a recent interview, “(The genesis of the film was) a real-life traumatic event in our family. In 2004, our sister Jody was brutally and nearly fatally attacked by a serial rapist. It took 14 years for the perpetrator to be finally caught and sentenced to prison. Throughout the ordeal of the trial, we came up with an idea that explored the concept of an underground revenge-fantasy service for family members of crime victims.”

Co-directed by Emmy-nominated, multi award-winning director Samuel Gonzalez Jr., actor Michael Lombardi, and Bridget Smith, known for her work on music videos, Lombardi and Smith previously worked together on the 2020 drama “Sno Babies,” with other cast members returning to work with them on The Retaliators

John Bishop (Michael Lombardi, FX’s Rescue Me) is an upstanding small-town pastor and a devoted single dad whose already trauma-filled life is turned upside when his daughter, Sarah, is brutally murdered.Bishop meets Jed Sawyer (Marc Menchaca, “Ozark”) the local police detective who wants to help him get justice for Sarah’s slaying but leads him onto a path of disturbing secrets and hellish consequences.

Then there’s the bad guys. Ram Kady (Joseph Gatt, Game Of Thrones) is the merciless killing-machine muscle of the drug-running gang and brother of the motorcycle club’s VP, Vic Kady, portrayed by Five Finger Death Punch frontman Ivan Moody. The rest of the band make up the rest of the gang, and through their sordid shenanigans, we meet a few of the other rock-star cameos: Tommy Lee as a strip club DJ, Ice Nine Kills’ Spencer Charnas as drugged-out brothel manager Max, who also happens to be in a rival biker gang.

The Retaliators
Credit: retaliatorsmovie.com

And while these guys are the scum of society, none of them compare to the pure evil that is serial rapist Quinn Brady, terrifyingly played by Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix. Once released from prison, he goes after the cop who took him down and kicks off the mighty, fucked up chain of events that lead to John Bishop’s transformation from hapless pastor to all-round badass a la Ash Williams.

The Retaliators 2
Credit: IMDB

The Retaliators is a slow burner to begin with, but that just makes it all the more impactful when the shit hits the fan—and Jesus Christ does it hit the fan. Sarah’s death is a shock, especially how it happens, and then we’re left to stew in Bishop’s sorrow until Sawyer offers his vengeful relief. 

Hearing Sawyer’s gut-wrenching story of what led him down this dark path, then actually seeing his sick attempt at “getting over” what happened to him, something he thinks will help Bishop deal with his situation, is what leads to the moral questions. We’re faced with a clear right and wrong, and then all of a sudden, that dividing line is blurred, and you don’t know who to side with anymore. If you’ve ever felt conflicted watching a slasher take their much-deserving victims, get ready to feel that in spades as the tables turn and turn again. 

This sudden chaos leads to probably the best scene and line in the movie as Bishop gets all bloodied up and badass. He stumbles across Sofie (model Rachel Hilbert) and Erica (Eva Marie, Eva Under Fire) in their broken down road-trip-mobile, just as the living-dead escape into the wilderness, and so satisfyingly proclaims “THEY’RE NOT ZOMBIES”!!! 

The Retaliators
Credit: IGN

You won’t see any blockbuster special effects in this flick, but the over-the-top, DIY-feeling VFX add to its charm. One particular eyeball injury springs to mind as gratifyingly gory and unbelievable enough to make you giggle as you gag. 

It would’ve been nice to see some more from some of the cameos and smaller characters—Charnas’ Max, for one, as any Ice Nine Kills fan will corroborate that their music videos are mini-movies in themselves, and the kid can act, and Shaddix’s Quinn Brady because it’s frankly quite scary how well he plays him, and as a society of true crime obsessives (thanks Netflix), we’re desensitized and enticed by messed up shit like this all at once. 

No, I haven’t forgotten about the soundtrack, featuring all of the rock stars we see in the movie, and then some. Check out our review of the soundtrack here.

The Retaliators is a horror movie with a big heart, and one that will make you question which path you’d choose if you were ever unlucky enough to be in our protagonist’s shoes. With such a strong cast, as well as its old-school genre sentiment and charm, it’s sure to become a cult classic.

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