THE RETALIATORS: The Wages of Sin Is Gore

Michael Lombardi as Bishop in THE RETALIATORS. All images courtesy Better Noise Films


Better Noise Films
Dir: Samuel Gonzalez Jr., Michael Lombardi, Bridget Smith
Written by: Darren Geare & Jeff Allen Geare

Starring: Michael Lombardi, March Mechca, Joseph Gatt, and Katie Kelly

I wasn’t sure how I’d react to THE RETALIATORS. As a confirmed ghost story fan, I tend to prefer a more slow burn (i.e. sedate) horror experience than the grindhouse, guts, and rock n roll promised in THE RETALIATORS’ poster & trailer.

What the heck – it’s time to get out of the cozy ghost story nook and take a trip to Goretown!

After a jarring cold open, I started to wonder if I’d accidentally started watching a Hallmark Channel adaptation of a Harlequin Love Inspired Christmas story, instead of a DEATH WISH-esque revenge horror thriller. The story proper begins with modern hip minister Bishop (co-director Michael Lombardi) navigating life as a single father to two daughters, and the first section of THE RETALIATORS sets up some rather ordinary dilemmas for the Bishop family.

Will older daughter Sarah (Katie Kelly) convince Dad to let her go to the school dance? (Yes)
Will younger sister Rebecca (Abbey Hafer) allow any exceptions to her strict “all gifts must be wrapped or they don’t count” policy? (Also Yes)
Will the magic of Christmas bring the gift of unexpected new love to the devoted, lonely minister? (Oh Holy Heck, no)

THE RETALIATORS feels like a feel-good holiday movie – until it doesn’t.

Bishop (Michael Lombardi) and Det. Jed Sawyer (March Menchaca) meet under difficult circumstances.

Just as I was wondering when Bishop would start retaliating after a devastating personal loss, a whiplash twist careened the story into a grindhouse survival horror, complete with scummy drug-dealing gang members, a nu-metal soundtrack, EVIL DEAD levels of gore, and backwoods murder houses.

From its’ WTF beginning and placid homey opening scenes to the gore-filled climax and sitcom-cute closing moment, THE RETALIATORS feels like an everything but the kitchen sink B movie mash-up, the movie equivalent of a Cotton Candy and Sardine Sandwich served in a grungy backwoods heavy metal hangout.

But… sometimes odd combinations work. And most of THE RETALIATORS works for me. Is it a great movie? While the makeup effects are top-notch, the performances in THE RETALIATORS are hit-and-miss. The story could’ve used a bit more showing, laying the groundwork for the big twist, and less monologuing about bleeding-heart judges and heavy-handed, motivation-providing flashbacks.

, but even as a visitor to the subgenre, individual parts don’t work for me, the bottom line is that I don’t regret the time spent watching it. If I was more into splatter & gore & metal, I might be a bigger fan.

As it is, THE RETALIATORS was an interesting, albeit gore-soaked, visit to the grindhouse neck of the horror woods.

VIA F&s on Medium – Review: GOODNIGHT HONEY


A film by Max Strand and Todd Rawiszer
An Examine Dots picture
Produced by Josh Michaels, Todd Rawiszer and Max Strand
Directed by Max Strand
Written by Max Strand and Todd Rawiszer
Director of Photography Todd Rawiszer
Editor Jay Yachetta
Production Design Cansu Guney
(All images courtesy Examine Dots)

GOODBYE HONEY is a first feature that doesn’t play like one. Through its (mostly) taut 96 minutes, director Max Strand, co-writer Todd Rawiszer, and the cast & crew deliver a suspenseful thriller that deftly blends character development and suspense to produce an effective — and affecting — movie. As the audience meets weary truck driver Hope (Pamela Jayne Morgan) and a young, traumatized woman named Phoebe, as we watch their lives intertwine, tension and discovery blend and complement each other, to the story’s benefit and the audience’s appreciation.

GOODBYE HONEY (hereafter GH) begins with the simplicity of a campfire story. Late at night, a woman drives a moving van down a dark road. Hope, owner and sole employee of Nate’s Haul-N-Go parks her rig in a secluded state park for some desperately needed rest. But any hope of sleep vanishes when a bedraggled young woman (Juliette Alice Gobin) frantically bangs on the cabin window, pleading for rescue from an unseen, and possibly imaginary, threat.

Hope faces a choice — charity or safety.

Will she be a Good Samaritan — and where will that choice take her?

Phoebe and Hope’s relationship doesn’t begin on a positive note.

In the darkest hours of the night and against her gut instinct, Hope chooses to help this terrified young woman. Hope tries to assist Phoebe in a way that puts herself in the least danger, but events, as they so often do in both movies and real-life, take on a life of their own.

It’s a compliment to Morgan’s performance that I immediately believed in Hope’s innate decency, as well as her soul-deep mental & physical weariness. In contrast, Gobin’s performance had me guessing for a good portion of GH’s runtime; I wasn’t sure if I could trust anything Phoebe said and wondered when — and if -Hope’s trust would be betrayed. I believed Phoebe had experienced severe trauma — but some doubts persisted, almost until the end; was Phoebe running from a real, human threat — or the demons in her mind?

Phoebe has one chance to escape — and conquer — her demons.

Strand and Rawiszer skillfully change up the suspense tropes throughout the film. Hope’s story seems to be that of the “Lone Woman in Peril”, before changing up to “Protagonist Encounters Untrustworthy Stranger”, before transforming into “Reluctant Sisterhood Fights an External Threat”.

Or more precisely, two separate threats. The first being a red herring setup to prepare Hope and Phoebe for the second, their encounter with GH’s true antagonist.

While I understand the story reasons behind Hope’s encounter with the drunk, stoned McGuffin Brothers Zach (Rafe Soule) and Tyler (Jake Laurence), I wish the scene had been a few minutes shorter. We get the point of this interlude — demonstrating how vulnerable Hope & Phoebe are as a seemingly harmless encounter with two young men flips into ugly & threatening territory on a dime, but for me, this scene lingered after the point was made. At least it does a great job, as all modern suspense/horror movies must, of demonstrating the foolishness of relying on cell phones to save you in a horror/suspense movie.

Hope and Phoebe continue to Work Things Out.

As the threads of GH’s storylines draw together in the final act, what could come across as wild coincidence instead feels like fate & symmetry. When the truth behind the seemingly random encounter of Hope and Phoebe is revealed, it feels organic, not contrived. GH uses the previously mentioned “untrustworthy stranger” cliché to build a story of bonding instead of division and tells a female-centric story that doesn’t feel like a labored lecture. For Hope and Phoebe, each woman’s journey feels right. Hope’s exhaustion (spiritual & physical) sees resolution, while Phoebe regains agency over her own life.

GOODBY HONEY is a noteworthy addition to the small but mighty “captivity horror” sub-genre, alongside MARTYRS (2008), PRISONERS (2013), and DON’T BREATHE (2016).

Pamela Jayne Morgan Hope Mitchell
Juliette Alice Gogin Phoebe Beenum
Paul C. Kelly Cass Rodick
Zach Rafe Soule
Tyler Jake Laurence
Allison Peyton Michelle Edwards
Whitney Rodick Keara Benton

Metropolis 1927 — blackwings666


Forry Ackerman poses with MARIA – The first major ROBOT in film history. MARIA was featured in Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic METROPOLIS. If you have never seen this movie, you will be amazed at the futuristic look of the film. Almost impossible to believe this was from 1927! A must see for science fiction fans.

Metropolis 1927 — blackwings666

Via Diary of A Movie Maniac -Burnt Offerings (1976)


Synopsis: Writer Ben Rolfe (Oliver Reed, The Devils), his wife Marian (Karen Black, Five Easy Pieces), their young son Davey (Lee H. Montgomery, Ben) and Ben’s aunt (Bette Davis) rent a Victorian house for the summer at an unbelievably low price. The family soon finds out that “if something seems too good to be true, […]

Burnt Offerings (1976) — Diary of A Movie Maniac

The Films of 2020: Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg) — Through the Shattered Lens

Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is a professional assassin. That really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.  For whatever reason, films about assassins have become very popular over the past few years and those assassins are often women.  However, what sets Tasya apart from other assassins is the technique that she uses.  Under the […]

The Films of 2020: Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg) — Through the Shattered Lens

HIGHLIGHTS: February 2021 HORROR Film Festival — Festival for HORROR


AUDIENCE AWARD WINNERS: Best Feature Film: THE HIKE Best Short Film: FREIGHT Best Cinematography & Performances: CROCKPOT Theme of night: Scary man NOTE: Festival took place during the COVID-19 virus lockdown so all screenings were held in private. Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Videos: FReIGHT, 12min., USA, Horror CROCK POT, 8min., USA, Horror THE HIKE, 120 […]

HIGHLIGHTS: February 2021 HORROR Film Festival — Festival for HORROR