PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: THE LOST TRIBE (2010)
By Michael Arruda
If only they could tell a story……
The horror movie, THE LOST TRIBE (2010), is a classic example of a well-made movie done in by the fact that the folks who made it seem to have no idea how to tell a story. That would be director Roel Reine and screenwriter Mark E. Davidson. At least the film looks good, and there are some decent scenes in the film, so Reine can direct, but the story—and I’m not talking plot here because the plot isn’t half bad—I’m talking about the telling of the story. It’s here where the film fails, and it’s not alone.
See, I’ve seen this problem before. I’ve seen it a lot, actually. For some reason, many of the low budget direct-to-DVD horror movies I’ve watched in the past few years suffer from this same phenomenon. Weird.
Years ago, low budget filmmakers faced obstacles such as bad acting, grade-Z production values, fake cardboard sets, and embarrassing special effects, but for the most part these old movies got the narrative right. They could tell a story. It might not have been a very believable story, but it made sense from beginning to end.
THE LOST TRIBE looks great, has decent acting, and has really good make-up/special effects, yet it can’t tell a story to save its life. Where have all the writers gone?
If I sound frustrated, I am. I’m tired of watching movies that don’t make sense, when all it would take is a little bit of writing, and everything would be better, and I’d end up liking the movie.
In THE LOST TRIBE, there’s this group of friends on a small boat on their way to conduct a business deal when they rescue a terrified drowning man. The man warns them to get out of the area, but since they’re on their way to their business deal, they’re not interested in turning back. So, the guy takes matters into his own hands and attempts to turn the boat around on his own, but it turns out he has no idea what he’s doing, and the boat crashes. Oops! He dies in the crash, too. Double oops! The group of friends survives, however, and they find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island.
Of course, the island isn’t deserted. It’s inhabited by the “lost tribe,” a clan of humanoid cannibals, not the kind of people you want to share an island with.
Now, this lost tribe is actually pretty darn scary, so much so that it’s a crying shame we don’t know more about them. They look frightening, and they also seem to be related to the Predators from the PREDATOR movies, as they share the same kind of vision, seeing people through their body heat.
I don’t really know if this tribe has alien DNA or not. Why don’t I know this? You got it. Poor storytelling. What I do know is that the Catholic Church feels threatened by the tribe, evidently because they’re afraid of the truth being taught about evolution, which is funny because in real life the Catholic Church doesn’t oppose evolution. In the movie, the church is so threatened by these creatures that they send an assassin, Gallo (Lance Henriksen), to eliminate the scientists who’ve been on the island studying the tribe. When Gallo finishes with the scientists, he turns his attention to the group of castaways. So, not only do our folks from the boat need to worry about cannibalistic humanoid ape-men, but also an unscrupulous assassin with an aggressive trigger finger.
The castaways don’t stand a chance, and within no time, both threats make quick work of them, leaving only one survivor, Anna (Emily Foxler). After all that has come before, the fact that Anna can singlehandedly survive against the cannibal creatures for the final third of the movie is difficult to swallow, as is the entire movie.
THE LOST TRIBE has some genuine frightening moments. The scenes of cannibalism are grisly and not for the squeamish. There’s also a powerful scene where Anna finds her dying lover – half his upper body is missing, having been gnawed on by the cannibals— and he begs her to kill him. It’s a truly powerful moment in the film, very emotional and disturbing, and it’s the best scene in the movie.
But in spite of this, I didn’t like THE LOST TRIBE at all, and it comes back to the lack of storytelling. Why is that so difficult?
For instance, if you’re going to hire a name actor like Lance Henriksen, why waste the guy’s few scenes by having them make no sense? His character’s initial meeting with the Catholic Church is quick and without details, and later his kill scenes are so fast they make the bullets flying from his gun seem slow. And why do the scientists have to be killed? Why not attempt to quiet them by other means? For that matter, why do the castaways have to be killed? And how about some more details about the lost tribe itself? Just who the hell are these creatures? Where did they come from? And how have they remained hidden all this time?
I have lots of guesses to these questions, but why should I have to guess? What the heck kind of a story is that? A poorly written one!
If THE LOST TRIBE could tell any kind of a story, we’d be talking about a pretty good horror movie. It’s got good acting, scary cannibal creatures, a good amount of scary, disturbing scenes, but none of it falls into place, none of it makes sense. There’s a beginning—a group of friends crash in a boat; a middle— they’re eaten by cannibal creatures; and an end—one last friend must fight off creatures. But without any decent exposition, none of it is satisfying. It’s just a long superficial bore, with as much depth as a beach at low tide.
THE LOST TRIBE should stay lost.
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda