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Practical Effects Abound in the Bloody, but Messy The Retaliators

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The Retaliators screener provided by Better Noise Films 

The Retaliators is never wholly committed to frightening your socks off nor is it ever really committed to becoming a story of redemption”

It’s tough to explain what sort of 90 minute ride awaits one in The Retaliators (2021). It’s a film that is filled with an array of practical effects that seemingly take from and pay homage to the great campy horrors of the early 90s, yet at the same time it is a dissipated mess with a story that is all over the place and a plot that is almost non-existent. But maybe that’s what directing duo Samuel Gonzalez Jr. and Bridget Smith were going for?

Given it’s lack of cohesion, The Retaliators is quite the trip. It is at once comprised of serial killers doing serial killer things; grotesque displays of violence that aren’t exactly horrific but are quite impressive; and a priest-turned-predator-protagonist who forgoes his teachings and puts vengeance in his own hands after his daughter is killed in a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time moment. These are technical and story decisions right from the book of Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and other names that built their careers off of similarly ludicrous subject matter. But it works, for the most part.

That’s perhaps because The Retaliators is never wholly committed to frightening your socks off nor is it ever really committed to becoming a story of redemption. It rides these waves, for sure, but they’re never the imperative of the film. Rather, The Retaliators dabbles in multiple story threads at once and throws in a bunch of characters you don’t really care for and aren’t too worried about when they’re gone, and it just lets them run rampant. In other words, the film is more a showcase of practicality where otherwise more serious and high-budget titles might opt to digitise these practical displays of carnage.

Sure those bigger budget titles have the advantage of…well…a bigger budget, but recent titles from directors like Panos Cosmatos or Richard Stanley achieve the same level of practical finnesse as The Retaliators, but with the added bonus of focusing on a few key messages, overtones and story beats, but executing them with precision. Maybe it’s the presence of Nicolas Cage in those directors’ films that is the selling point, but The Retaliators swings a lot but misses even more.

The Retaliators is in select national cinemas on the 14th and 16th of September, 2022. 


Arnel Duracak

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