2021, Movies

The Retaliators (2021, Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Bridget Smith)

This is a bad horror/action film that we watched because the internet told us it’s a Christmas movie. Well, it’s barely a Christmas movie – it takes place primarily after Christmas – and it’s a narrative disaster. SPOILERS

I guess the best place to start is the plot, there’s just too much of it. The main antagonist does not have to be a member of a biker gang and so the whole biker gang part of the film doesn’t need to exist. It’s hard to understand why it’s here. There’s a flashback within a flashback because apparently that’s the only way they could figure out how to explain the twist and the motivation of the secondary antagonist. The twist itself surprised me but I don’t think it actually explains the behaviour of the zombie-like monsters at the beginning of the movie – they don’t really seem human any more. (Like so many horror movies, this film has a really dim view of the idea of rehabilitation.) Lastly, is the pastor supposed be telling this story? Because, if he is, why did he start with the women in the van? Because it’s a horror movie cliché?

I had more than a few nitpicks but I didn’t write all of them down:

Why do the women victims not try to escape or get help? The woman in the van could drive (unless her friend had the keys) even with a flat. Certainly that’s a better choice than what she does. Why doesn’t the daughter run into the convenience store?

How is it that he buries his daughter before he speaks to the detective and before the police have asked the gas stations for their footage? TV tells us the most important time in an investigation is the first 24-48 hours but this cop is just dawdling. (Or, you know, this is a bad movie that doesn’t understand that planning a funeral is likely going to take longer than it takes the police to start a homicide investigation.)

In the basement, does the curtain dampen all sound? How is it that the pastor can’t hear all of those people until the curtain is pulled away?

This isn’t a very realistic film, obviously but any sense realism goes away when the filmmakers try to copy shots from other films that they like. The woman in the van is dragged away from the van without her friend seeing her (at way too fast a speed). The pastor is dragged under the van by his feet at a preposterously fast rate only for the film to reveal he’s being dragged by his arms. Those are only the most glaring examples of nonsense where the film is trying to look cool.

Was he telling the story to the grief group? Did he start with the girls in the car?

The film is also populated with somewhat famous musicians who absolutely don’t add to it. The lead isn’t great but, aside from those musicians, there are a few good “guy who was in that thing” actors in this, and it’s a shame the plot and film isn’t better for their sakes.

For highlights, I will say the feet gag is pretty funny even if it is impossible and the eyeball part is probably the best moment. But it takes a long time to get there.

Though I’m firmly on the side of Die Hard being a Christmas movie, I think this film is even less obviously a Christmas movie. The inciting incident happens on Christmas Eve but everything else seems to happen from Boxing Day on and if they really wanted to make this have some distinct holiday connection they might have moved the rest of the plot to New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, right? Anyway, I’d definitely not seek this out if you are looking for a new Christmas horror film.


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