Sunday, September 12

Retribution (1987) - 1989 CBS/FOX Home Video Japan VHS

After leaping off his apartment building in a suicide attempt, a lonely artist (George, Dennis Lipscomb) finds his soul replaced with that of a tortured and murdered mafia thug bloodthristy for vengeance. With the help of a psychiatrist (Leslie Wing), George is released from hospital, but is plagued by nightmares. He soon finds himself committing heinous killings upon unfamiliar victims while aslept...or so he thought. As the spree continues, George is inexplicably drawn to people surrounding the murder whom he doesn't know and gradually pieces together who he actually is while his violent possession gets ever restless.

Checking out Guy Magar's Retribution the other night, I couldn't shake the impression that it's the type of horror film ripe for a Hollywood re-imagining. Given how involved Magar was in the production (directing, writing, editing), it's obvious this was a labor of love, but the end result might have suffered. There just isn't the type of metaphysical, Cronenberg-esqe edge Retribution needed to sustain interest over a 109 minute duration. It's simply too by-the-numbers with a workmen-like feel as already well understood plot details are continually hammered again-and-again. This should have been a thinking man's piece; not something struggling with feeling like another forgotten, cookie-cutter '80s feature.

Limpscomb doesn't enliven his character with any flare or much likability by being so damn vanilla (Vincent Price would have kicked ass in this role). So much so that no one would have cared and nothing would have changed if George had been successful in committing suicide at the start. This also makes George's friendship with a smitten lap dancer/prostitute, played by semi-scream queen Suzanne Snyder, ring untrue. Depending on your mood, Retribution will either be passably watchable or just wear you down. That's why the premise seems to have potential in a big-budget revisit. Well, that might merely end up in the same blandless by being too overblown.             

I'll have to make a confession about this tape. I actually haven't watched this release yet. Winning this Japanese VHS off eBay, I scored the domestic Virgin Vision VHS at a yard sale while waiting for its mailbox arrival. Although judging by this info at the IMDB, both tapes are edited anyway. There's three gory setpieces in which a woman disembowels herself with a knife, a slaughterhouse worker is psychically forced into a cow carcass and sawed in half on a conveyor, and a mechanic blowtorches his hand off and his head crushed. The cuts are fairly obvious, yet the excised footage only constitutes a couple seconds. You can watch the full R-rated version here (first kill at the start of Part 4) and a better quality uncut version starting here (uncut first kill in Part 3/8) on YouTube. On a final note, I thought that little picture of the knife-welding, red-dressed woman on the back looked familiar...


Jeff said...

Hey Jayson,

I have this on VHS and have been begging to have companies transfer it to DVD. Would be especially nice to have some filmmaker commentary or documentary. I don't know what you thought of it, but I think the ending is truly scary (the final "Santa Maria, mother of God help me!") Thanks for posting this review.

Jayson Kennedy said...

You know, I'm surprised how people like this one. I mean, I didn't hate it, but the whole thing seemed to flatline for me. I liked that little stunner at the ending too. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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