Tribe, The (2009)

The TribeReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Jewel Staite, Justin Baldoni, Marc Bacher, Nikki Griffin, Kellan Lutz, Terry Notary

Directed by Jorg Ihle

Now here’s a film with a truly strange history that even I haven’t fully pieced together yet. The producers apparently weren’t happy with the initial cut of The Tribe and had some major post-production problems that prevented getting the primary cast back for reshoots. They worked around this problem by simply reshooting the entire movie with an entirely different cast, including Lance Henriksen and Maxine Bahns, and calling that version The Lost Tribe. Weird. I’m sure there are those out there with a better understanding of the situation than I. All I know right now for certain is that the original The Tribe version just got released on DVD in Germany. Not sure when the other version will see the light of day. I do seem to recall reading that After Dark Films picked up North American distribution for The Tribe. That seems only highly appropriate to me because the movie I just watched felt like a motion picture that would fit right at home in the line-up of an After Dark Horrorfest. By that I mean an obviously low budget film, but a good looking one, suffering from pure cookie cutter storytelling, acted and directed competently enough yet still to damn mundane for its own good.

Five vacationing friends get shipwrecked on an island in the Greater Antilles where they’re stalked and killed by a tribe of primitive man-ape cannibals. Insert shades of Predator, The Descent, and countless other movies I could name. Wrap it up in an all-too-easy to be believed manner. The end. Honestly, make the locale less tropical, make there be only one monster and change it to that of a hulking inbred mongoloid, and The Tribe could just as easily have been billed as a remake of 1982’s Humongous.

The Tribe actually owes way more than just shades to Predator. People getting attacked by an incredibly agile unseen assailant lurking in the jungle trees. A monster all but nose-to-nose with the lead character yet unable to sense her because she’s covered in a slime, much like the Predator‘s infrared being unable to detect Schwarzenegger when covered in cooling mud. Even the final showdown between the lead heroine and the dominant male of the tribe brought to mind the climax of Predator what with how she gets tossed about and how it stalks her with a bit of a Predator-like strut. They even make a noise vaguely similar to that chirping sound the Predator makes.

Now just because a movie follows such a simplistic formula and borrows liberally from other films doesn’t automatically mean the movie cannot be any good. Truth be told, The Tribe really isn’t that bad of a movie. It’s just kind of there. Okay, the first 25-minutes focusing on the introduction of the quintet of stereotypical characters is so stale the film can never fully recovers from it. The pace picks up considerably once they realize they are not alone on this island, and with a running time barely 80-minutes in length, it doesn’t have that far to go before all is said and done. The major failing here is due almost entirely to how hopelessly formulaic the whole exercise is combined with how shallow there is to any of the five characters. As I said, it’s just kind of there.

The most effective moments don’t come until the finale when the heroine undergoes her rapid metamorphosis from low-key female to determined survivalist (ala The Descent, only nowhere near as effective), in her increasingly disintegrating clothes I might add, as she struggles to escape this Darwinian nightmare. She may have more to worry about than just getting eaten alive; the dominant male appears to have interest in her that extends beyond mere nutritional purposes. This too gets undercut by a resolution that I found too simplistic to be satisfactory.

The one thing most worth doting on is the design of the tribal creatures by FX artist Barney Burman. The costuming and prosthetics are top notch. To me they looked like monkey men with somewhat werewolf-ish facial features adorned with what looked to me almost like voodoo inspired make-up. These hungry homicidal hominids look sufficiently ferocious and the actors inside the costumes breath more life into these monsters than any of the other actors do their human characters.

2 out of 5

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