Code Red // 1987 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // September 12th, 2012
It's time for fear...it's time for terror.
After jumping off his hotel roof on Halloween night, George Miller (Dennis Lipscomb, WarGames) wakes up to find himself alive and in a hospital. Things aren't the same as they once were, though, as he starts having dreams about a man he doesn't recognize being tortured and killed by four cackling weirdoes. That's not all; he is being drawn to places and people he's never seen and, each time, they kill themselves right in front of him. He's scared; crazier and crazier things are happening, and he's afraid he'll hurt someone he loves.
Retribution is by no means a great film, but it does have some memorable moments and the first scene may be its best. Suicide is rarely funny, but on Halloween night, with party-goers in monster masks hanging their heads in shock and sadness after George takes the plunge is weirdly hilarious. Frankenstein crying is not something one would expect, but here it is, setting viewers up for a bizarre experience that never really comes.
While the plot makes no sense, it's easy to follow and sets up the only real draw of the film the kill scenes very nicely. There aren't a lot of them, but what's presented is invented and fun, including a meat packer getting stuffed into a cow's carcass before getting sent through the saw. It's not enough to make up for the long stretches of inactivity and poorly wrought drama, which make up the majority of the plus-100 minute running time. The idea that this guy is possessed is fine, but it can't sustain the plot for the entire time.
Still, director Guy Magar (Stepfather III) had some good ideas and draws decent performances out of the actors. Lipscomb does a fine job in the lead, he's just crazy looking and mousey enough to pull off the confused and potentially homicidal artist and, while the other performers are not as solid, they work for what they have to do. We even get a brief appearance from Hoyt Axton (Gremlins), which is fun, though he isn't given much of a role. With a little bit tighter editing and less emphasis on the worthless drama, Retribution would have been much better. We have what we have, though, and as it is now appearing for the first time ever on DVD, cult horror fans can experience it for themselves.
Code Red sent a screener for the review of Retribution, but it appears to be at least close to the final product. The image isn't perfect, but given that it's the film's first time on DVD, it looks pretty good. Colors are strong and black levels are deep, but there is some damage on the print. The sound is a very average stereo mix, with little differentiation between the channels, though there is little background noise to mar the dialog and music. Extras include an audio commentary with Guy Magar, who is very detailed in his memory of the production and the people involved. It's not the most exciting thing in the world, but it's worth a listen. The supplements continue with a bank of deleted violent footage which basically just extends each of the kill scenes a little bit. Given the already excessive length of the film, it's no wonder there were cuts. A trailer for the film and the customary group of Code Red trailers finish out the disc.
Retribution is overlong and kind of silly, but offers some imaginative kills; cult horror fans should get a kick out of it. I recommend it mildly to them, but to nobody else.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes