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The Retaliators--Two young women in a van get a flat on a lonely forested road. If you're guessing they don't just get to fix it and be on their way, you're right.
Thus begins this horror tale, like a standard ghouls-in-the-woods nightmare, but the real theme, a la Last House on the Left, is Revenge. When the teenage daughter (Katie Kelly) of a young New Jersey pastor (Michael Lombardi) is murdered, he investigates, and eventually finds himself in a position where he must confront his own commitment to the Christian principle that vengeance is not his.
Co-directed by Samuel Gonzalez, Jr., Bridget Smith and Lombardi from a script by Darren Geare and Jeff Allen Geare, it's an extremely violent and gory shocker. But speaking as an easily frightened wimp, I must say that somehow I didn't find it very scary. It feels like it's trying too hard to be over-the-top gruesome; I couldn't take it seriously. The splatter is icky but never quite horrific on any deeper level.
The only member of the hardworking cast that I recognized was Brian O'Halloran (Dante from the Clerks movies) in a small role near the beginning, as a jerk who takes a Christmas tree away from a little girl. The hardcore killers and sickos in this movie have so little reality that I had a more visceral response to this guy's minor outrage than to their atrocities.
All that said, it must be admitted that this movie isn't predictable. Maybe because of the multiple hands behind the camera, The Retaliators takes a strange and circuitous route to its Jacobean bloodbaths. Whether it's a trip worth taking is a matter of taste, but at least it isn't a trip we've taken before.
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