Tribesmen by Adam Cesare

Tribesmen is an homage to the controversial Italian exploitation cannibal movies of the 1970s and 1980s. Titles such as Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox shocked and ended up banned in many countries. Growing up during the height of the “video nasty” era in the U.K., it was these titles that bore the brunt of government attacks and censorship.

Tribesmen is the story of a hack Italian director and his multinational group of unfortunate actors and crew. A small plane drops them off on a remote island filming location in the Caribbean. Unfortunately for them, the island has a bloody and cursed history. As you would expect, things quickly turn sour and spiral out of control. The movie director, Tito Bronze, is completely obnoxious and a character you’ll love to hate. He is smarmy, sexist, racist and just oozes unpleasantness. Author Adam Cesare throws in Denny, a heroin addicted cameraman, Umberto, a brutish leading man, Cynthia, a naive actress looking for her big break, Daria, a make up artist, and Jacques, a writer putting together the movie screenplay as they go. It’s an interesting cast of characters and each chapter focuses on a different one of them. The lines between those corrupted by the island and the innocent are quickly drawn.

It feels authentic, in that this was how many of the mass-produced über cheap cannibal movies were made. There is even a nod to the controversy over the killing of animals in the real movies as a pig meets an unpleasant fate. The fate of the humans in the book is far worse as the cannibal theme takes over. Umberto is an impressive and lunatic cannibal. The gory descriptions of his flesh-eating and his descent into a primal cannibal are vivid and effective. The violence is graphic. It’s cleverly written, as the movie they are filming quickly becomes their brutal reality.

The great thing about the book is that Cesare avoids the obvious cliché of savage natives. It is the crew themselves who fall victim to the evil spirits of the island. It’s a pretty short story with a tight, fast pace, and no padding. It’s a great throw back to that era and refreshing as cannibal stories rarely appear in horror any more. It’s an entertaining must-read.

A recommended non-fiction title on the subject of Italian cannibal movies and the fascinating controversy that surrounded them is Eaten Alive!: Italian Cannibal and Zombie Movies.

8/10

Book Cover Blurb:

In the early 80’s – at the height of the ultra-violent “Italian cannibal” grindhouse film craze – a small international cast and crew descend on an isolated Caribbean island, hoping to crassly exploit the native talent.

But the angry, undead spirits of the island have a different, more original script in mind. And as horror after staggering horror unfolds, the camera keeps rolling. To the blood-spattered end…

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