Retribution – USA, 1986

‘Santa Maria, mother of God …help me’

Retribution is a 1986 [released 1987] American supernatural horror film produced, co-edited and directed by Guy Magar from a screenplay co-written with Lee Wasserman; it stars Dennis Lipscomb, Leslie Wing, Hoyt Axton, and Suzanne Snyder.

The film’s synth-heavy soundtrack score was by Alan Howarth, a frequent collaborator with John Carpenter.

Plot:

On Halloween, George Miller attempts to commit suicide by jumping off his hotel residence roof. However, he survives.

Psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Curtis manages to convince George he must carry on despite him suffering from terrible nightmares. Unfortunately, he discovers that when he is asleep, he forces other people to kill themselves in cruel ways…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“There are long, tedious stretches where nothing much happens and numerous scenes thrown in that have little bearing on the actual plot and should have wound up on the cutting room floor […] Thankfully, this does manage to come to life during some nicely-directed, shot and staged supernatural sequences.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

“What does set the film apart from most of its ilk – low budget or studio release – is an obvious affection on the director’s part for his characters (perhaps too much since few of the nice characters are put in danger or even potentially threatened) and confidence in his chosen cast and crew.” DVD Drive-In

“A fun trash movie, overlong but with enough horrible death to compensate for a hysterical central performance and some ridiculous plot turns.” Empire

“Inexplicably, director Guy Magar, a TV cop-show veteran, and co-writer Lee Wasserman have humorlessly emphasized their hero’s psychological torment as if this was serious stuff, not the hokum that it is.” Los Angeles Times

The murder sequences are all strange and inventive enough to catch the attention of any horror fan, especially a surreal vignette involving a huge pig’s carcass at a meat processing plant, and Lipscomb does well in a rare leading role different from his usual TV work. The script itself doesn’t quite hold together as some characters get far more developed than others…” Mondo Digital

Cast and characters:

  • Dennis Lipscomb … George Miller
  • Leslie Wing … Jennifer Curtis
  • Suzanne Snyder … Angel
  • Jeff Pomerantz … Doctor Alan Falconer
  • George Murdock … Doctor John Talbot
  • Pamela Dunlap … Sally Benson
  • Susan Peretz … Mrs. Stoller
  • Clare Peck … Carla Minelli
  • Chris Caputo … Dylan
  • Hoyt Axton … Lt. Ashley – King Cobra; Buried AliveGremlins
  • Ralph Manza… Amos
  • Mario Roccuzzo … Johnny Blake
  • Harry Caesar … Charlie
  • Jeffrey Josephson… Joe Martinez
  • Danny D. Daniels … Rasta Doctor

Production:

Guy Magar has said it took three years before he found an investor for the film. A wealthy businessman finally put up the entire $1.2 million budget. Filming began in January 1986 and lasted five weeks.

Filming locations:

Los Angeles, California

Release:

Retribution screened at the AFI Film Festival of Los Angeles in March 1987. The film was originally planned for theatrical release in October 1986, but its release was delayed. It had a limited release in June 1987 and was finally scheduled for an October 1988 wide release.

Censorship:

In the UK, the BBFC censored the Medusa VHS release by a whopping 1m 24s.

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2 Comments on “Retribution – USA, 1986”

  1. I thought it was overrated by some people when I originally saw it in the ’80s. But just re-watched it on Amazon Prime (I’d better mention it’s on there!) and though it’s overlong I enjoyed it for the brightly-lit visuals, fun OTT performances and the Los Angeles locations vibe. They say “George” way too much though. Yes WE know his name, HE knows his name and the other characters clearly know his name too. But definitely a better entry for the mid-’80s when horror started to lose its way.

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