Here’s the plot so I don’t have to write a book report:
“Thirty years ago, cynical sleazeball director Tito Bronze took a tiny cast and crew to a desolate island. His goal: to exploit the local tribes, spray some guts around, cash in on the gore-spattered 80s Italian cannibal craze.
But the pissed-off spirits of the island had other ideas. And before long, guts were squirting behind the scenes, as well. While the camera kept rolling… TRIBESMEN is Adam Cesare’s blistering tribute to Cannibal Holocaust and Lucio Fulci: a no-bullshit glimpse into grindhouse filmmaking, stuffed inside a rocket of tropical non-stop mayhem.”
Adam Cesare’s Tribemen is one of those short novels—much like the gross-out that is Cannibal Holocaust—that almost has a legend surrounding it. It was one of the first of only three titles to come out from the much-lamented Ravenous Shadows imprint that was spearheaded by splatterpunk legend, John Skipp. The books published by Ravenous Shadows—The Devoted, Die Bastard! Die!, and Tribesmen—were quick, brutal reads meant to be devoured in a two hour sitting. And then like most e-publishing operations, it disappeared along with the three published titles. It didn’t take long for Cesare to find a new home for Tribesmen with Deadite Press. But in those short months it wasn’t around, it gained a reputation as being as disgusting as the animal snuff film it pays homage to.
This, however, isn’t the case. Tribesmen is actually a cursed island ghost story and Cesare instead focuses his energies on creating a feeling of claustrophobic dread as opposed to leaning on exploitative violence. Although, Tribesmen doesn’t shy away from it, but like the most effective horror narratives, the bloodshed is kept quick and powerful, providing the illusion that the worst of the slaughter is happening off the page. (There is one scene of cannibalism that’s a bit of a stomach churner. But, you know, it’s a horror novel about people getting eaten, you just kind of expect it.) And while the whole ‘haunted island’ thing has a bit of Scooby-Doo vibe to it, the locale adds to the overall tension: There is no escape, there’s only the hunt and the vengeful sprits of the abandoned tropical island is genuinely the most sympathetic character in the novella.
For such a short book, Cesare packs a deft combination of character development and action into a very small package. The book alternates between the perspectives of the entire cast and crew of the film and the conversational flow keeps the story moving at the lighting paced urgency of a well-done 70’s B-movie; which, in turn, lends Tribesmen a bit of the cheesiness you expect from such productions. (The ending is pure 70’s cheese and feels a bit like an episode of Charlie’s Angel’s wrapping up.) Overall, Tribesmen is a classic horror thriller without a lot of fat weighing it down.