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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

THE LOST TRIBE -- DVD review by porfle

A sense of familiarity hangs over THE LOST TRIBE (2009), which seems like a rehash of elements from several other movies.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since there are lots of entertaining monster flicks that aren't all that original.  But the fact that this one is so well acted (especially by the impressive Emily Foxler), imaginatively directed by Roel Rein√©, and attractively photographed makes it all the more disappointing when it starts to lose steam in its second half.

Two couples--Anna & Tom and Joe & Alexis, plus loner Chris--are on a sailing cruise somewhere in the Mediterranean when they come across a man floating on a piece from a wrecked boat.  He's so frantic that he must be sedated, but during the night he awakens and desperately takes control of the sailboat, dashing it into a reef and sinking it.  The others barely make it to shore, where they find the man's body and bury it.  Later, they discover the grave empty and splattered with blood.

Naturally, Tom (Nick Mennell) ventures into the jungle by himself when he hears strange noises.  Anna (Emily Foxler), goes in search of him when he fails to return, and eventually the entire group is traipsing around in the bush.  They discover the remains of a military encampment and an anthropological dig, but no people.  Meanwhile, there are mysterious, hairy figures darting about in the treetops and communicating with each other in gutteral growls, and one by one the helpless castaways start disappearing.

What we know that they don't know is revealed in a goofy subplot in which the missing link between ape and man is unearthed, and the Vatican, fearful that the discovery will validate the theory of evolution once and for all, unleashes killer priest Father Gallo (Lance Henriksen) upon the hapless scientists with orders to terminate them.  Which he does, in sadistic and decidedly unpriestly fashion. Ooh, that ee-vil Vatican!  Well, Gallo soon finds himself the last survivor of his team after they're wiped out by the ape creatures (it turns out that the missing links aren't quite missing after all), but that doesn't stop him from continuing to kill anyone else who shows up.  Which brings us back to...

...our hapless heroes, whose ranks are thinning rapidly.  The first half of THE LOST TRIBE is pretty suspenseful and we never quite get a good look at the creatures as they swoop down out of the trees and snatch people away.  As the main characters start to turn on each other, their true colors are revealed in interesting ways.  For once, thank goodness, the fat guy (Marc Bacher) doesn't turn out to be the most selfish and cowardly of the bunch.  That honor goes to Chris (Hadley Fraser), who wants to go back to the beach and wait for the Coast Guard to show up rather than search for Tom.  Not a healthy move for ol' Chris, or Joe's ditzy blonde girlfriend Alexis (Brianna Brown), who tags along with him and becomes the object of a quick snatch-and-grab.  Anna and Joe, meanwhile, meet up with none other than unkindly Father Gallo, who's still in a terminating mood.

While the trailer for THE LOST TRIBE gives away just about every freakin' plot point in addition to fully revealing the ape creatures themselves, I'll try to avoid spoiling everything and simply say that Final Girl stays alive long enough to witness the others being either executed by papal decree or devoured by a bunch of ravenous missing links.  (Come to think of it, there's no way I can avoid spilling at least some of the beans, so you might want to skip the next paragraph.)

For some reason, the ape creatures have what resembles "Predator" vision, and since Final Girl obviously saw that movie she discovers that she can become invisible to them by smearing herself with mud and sticky grape juice.  Thus, we get a long sequence of her sneaking around in the secret ape cave looking for her missing companions until finally the beasts surround her and start to close in.  This is where she meets the dreaded Alpha Male (Terry Notary), who expresses an urgent desire to either eat or mate with her.   

All of this manages to be fairly involving for awhile, but toward the end it starts to get a little tiresome.  The ape costumes aren't all that impressive, and I had to wonder where in the evolutionary process these half-ape, half-human creatures acquired the ability to hop around like giant grasshoppers and soar around through the treetops like flying squirrels.  About halfway through the movie we see them chowing down on a human buffet, which is pretty disconcerting, and after that scene they never seem quite as menacing again. 

The whole weird "Catholic conspiracy" subplot, along with Lance Henriksen's character, are quickly forgotten and what's left of the story just sort of peters out.  An emotional high point is reached when Final Girl discovers the fate of her boyfriend during the cave sequence, but EDEN LAKE covered this sort of devastating emotional territory much more effectively.  A lot of THE LOST TRIBE's second half, in fact, reminded me of EDEN LAKE but with hairier monsters. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a commentary with producer Mohit Ramchandani and actor Hadley Fraser ("Chris"), a "behind-the-scenes" featurette, and the trailer. 

According to IMDb, this film was originally shot as "The Forgotten Ones" with Jewel Staite ("Firefly", "Stargate: Atlantis") in the lead role, but the producers thought they could do better and filmed it all over again.  (Unlike 1936's TARZAN ESCAPES, which was the subject of a similar re-do, "The Forgotten Ones" has reportedly been released overseas.)  It would be interesting to compare the two versions.  As it is, THE LOST TRIBE is a well-made film that should hold your interest, but fails to live up to its potential.   

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