Available on DVD Tuesday, July 29th
Directed by P.J. Pesce
Twenty years of waiting and the best Warner Premiere can do to shine a cult property is exhume the cinematic equivalent of Grandpa Munster. Kitschy, harmless, flinging bad jokes and well past its welcome point after thirty minutes, this Lost Boys – a follow-up to Joel Schumacher’s superior ’87 youthful spin on bloodsucker archetypes – plays out like it’s more concerned about future sequels than the present one at hand. Devoted fans will be sorely disappointed in the lack of ingenuity brought to the table. On the other hand, undiscerning newcomers to the series are obviously not going to see right through the cookie cutter premise; they will, however, be aghast at the technical trappings this reportedly $6 million affair falls into and realize that there’s nothing fresh to separate this vampire tale from the others we’ve seen in the last two decades. Its heart is in the right place, but The Tribe fails to carry on the LB lineage. We waited for something better than this.
Wasting little time to introduce us to the “lost boys” – eschewing any mystery like its predecessor’s opening attack – this entry begins on a private beach where the gang – led by Shane Powers (Sutherland), an ex-pro surfer – makes quick work of the property’s owner (featuring genre cameo #1) in an explosion of blood ‘n guts. The “viscera” bar is set at this point on and it maintains a decent level of grue throughout the rest of the film. As for the vampire makeup, a departure from Greg Cannom’s original design, the movie embraces a bat-like approach with black eyes and funky noses – a sufficient approach and execution but this is the world of the Lost Boys, should there be any continuity? Never fear, this is only the first five minutes – an amusing enough intro with a cute punch line involving a severed head and terribly amateur credit graphics.
Cue Chris and Nicole Emerson (Hilgenbrink and Reeser, respectively), siblings parking their asses in the town of Luna Bay after their parents are killed in a car wreck (they’re Michael and Star’s kids, but we are never told that directly). Thanks to a generous aunt, they’ve got a house all to their own so they can get back on their feet. And what a bizarre chemistry they have. Not since the House of Wax remake has there been a brother/sister relationship teetering on the edge of incest. (“Cry little sister, love is with your brother” indeed.) Chris, also a name on the pro surfing scene, is highly over-protective and she’s prime jail bait (seriously, she’s 17), so when the two are invited to a beach house bash by Shane and his crew one night, drama is bound to erupt.
Sure enough, Shane has caught Nicole’s eye. She drinks his special whammy juice (blood) and is lured into vampiric bliss destined to wander the night as a half-bloodsucker. It’s not until she makes her first kill that she completely turns to the dark side. And you can guarantee Chris is going to prevent that from happening. For help, he enlists Edgar Frog (Feldman) – all grown up since we last saw him working at the comic book store in the original film and pulling double duties as a surfboard shaper and vampire killer. Comics are still a key part of his life. According to him, they’re ideal reference manuals on how to slay vampires, but it’s not entirely known how the creators of said comics know the exact ins and outs of killing vamps. Frog empathizes with Chris’ situation reminding us twice that he knows what it’s like to “lose a family member.” (Get it? Hint, hint…) Together, they set out to infiltrate Shane’s “tribe” and retrieve Nicole.
Given the questionable dynamic between Chris and Nicole, I’d venture to guess this film is one giant metaphor about a brother who can’t bear to see his lil’ sis deflowered by another man (whoops, too late!). But I don’t even think this film’s creators see that. Instead, they’re preoccupied with heavy themes anchored in extreme sports – there’s a motorcycle/skateboard chase with cops that’s the pits – with hammy ruminations about eternal life. Why live forever? Because it’s the ultimate adrenaline rush, man. Didn’t Hollywood’s fascination with extreme sports sneak out the back door with its tail between its legs in XXX?
The Tribe, for all of its sly references to the original (antlers, “saxophone guy,” etc.), delivers little bang for its buck and looks embarrassingly low budget, a massive detriment. Pesce – who previously slammed the final coffin nail on the From Dusk Till Dawn series with The Hangman’s Daughter – makes some unusual stylistic choices, like shooting a simple scene between Shane and Nicole backwards, and seems disinterested in “cleaning up” some of the film’s God-awful composite shots (for a beach scene, they literally pasted in an ocean). It appears as if little care was put into making this entry look good. (On another tech side note: Did they think we wouldn’t notice the pads on Reeser’s breasts after she has taken off her bra for a nude love-making scene? It happens not once, but three times!)
The Tribe‘s lack of quality unfortunately bleeds into the narrative as well. It delivers lackluster baddies who spend their screen time quoting The Big Lebowski and acting like O.C. assholes. Furthermore, Shane is a limp leader who mumbles through his lines with laughable gravity. Reeser gets lost in the shuffle once she “turns” leaving Hilgenbrink to hold onto modicum of dignity. He has some fun in this picture playing off of Feldman who seamlessly slips back into Frog mode, gruff voice and all. The height of their banter comes in a car ride, to go engage the enemy, where Frog reads off his grocery list of vampire fighting accoutrements. Feldman’s performance is sincere and a kick to watch, no doubt about that. Cheesy? Yes. You just have to remember…this is the way he was in the original. The scenes between these two work a helluva lot more than the strained jokes (such as a nod to The Goonies) whipped up for laughs.
Haim, encoring as Sam Emerson, makes it into the final picture – just keep an eye out during the final credits; meanwhile, Jamison Newlander, another returning Frog, is relegated to the DVD’s two alternate endings. The coda with Haim feels opportunistic, sensationalizing the weekly bullshit you see on The Two Coreys and, to be honest, it seems The Tribe‘s sole purpose was to tease a threequel featuring this conflict that would have been better served this time than watching Chris and Nicole’s derivative plight. The Tribe offers no new insight. Breaks no new ground. It’s a rehash…with cutesy Phantom Menace-like nods to Schumacher’s film. What a shame.