Film review by: Witney Seibold
Here’s one you probably haven’t seen: “Retribution.” A horror film from 1987, “Retribution,” directed by Guy Magar (“Stepfather III,” Children of the Corn VII”), and starring the Henry-Gibson-esque Dennis Lipscomb, is about a suicidal nebbish who discovers his body is being used against his will by a vengeful spirit. Despite having a complicated setup, wonderfully preposterous animated special effects, pointedly dated fashions, and buckets of gore (more than usual for 1987), “Retribution” is too polished to be cheesy fun. Indeed, I might go so far as to call it… pretty good. Can I call a film like this charming?
Lipscomb plays George Miller, a depressed painter who throws himself off a building on Halloween night in the film’s opening scene. He did not, however, die in his attempt, and had some nightmarish visions after his accident. While convalescing, he notices that the nightmares don’t stop, despite the kind and gentle advice from a pretty shrink. Miller slowly heals despite these nightmares, and even manages to build up a circle of friends who love him, including the local hooker Jennifer (Leslie Wing from “High School Musical”) with whom he begins to have a tentative affair.
“Retribution” is actually very canny in the way it handles the relationship between George and Jennifer. He knows she’s a hooker, and doesn’t seem to care. She knows that he has more than a sexual crush on her, and they actually manage to thrive.
But George keeps having those nightmares; he confronts dirty underworld types, and uses his psychokinetic powers to gleefully kill them. Of course it turns out these are not dreams, but somehow actually happening. It turns out that when George tried to kill himself, he picked up another soul during his brief trip to Hell, and has been acting as a sort of psychic vessel. The evil soul has been getting revenge on those responsible for its death.
This is one of those films that is not necessarily worthy of becoming a lost American classic, but deserves more than to be forgotten in the way it has. Also in this camp, I would include other 1980s psychological thrillers like “Pin” and “Apartment Zero.” “Retribution” is not as good as either of those, but if you can find a video store that still carries VHS, or are ambitious enough to find it on a non-reigion-1 DVD, then I feel I can recommend it to you. You won’t be blown away, but you will be far better than disappointed.