Book Review: Tribesmen (Adam Cesare)
Review by Marc Patterson
An island cursed by the blood of innocent natives becomes the shooting ground for the latest Tito Bronze film, a vicious cannibal flick called Tribesmen.
It’s the early 80’s and Italian exploitation king Tito Bronze is looking to cash in on the cannibal craze. With a small cast and crew he departs to a remote Caribbean island to make his exploitive masterpiece. Among his cast is a young naive makeup girl, Daria, who is hoping to make her break in the biz; Cynthia, a stunning blond starlet sure to make her mark; Umberto, a blonde statuesque leading male (a true man amongst men); Denny, a strung out druggie of a cinematographer; and Jacque, the consummate screenwriter and Tito’s arch rival. But, when the plane touches down there is no fanfare, or any greeting of any kind. The native population, meant to assist in the production of the film, is mysteriously gone. Nonetheless, Bronze is a filmmaker not easily swayed by trivial inconveniences, not that an entire supporting cast and crew is trivial. He’s hellbent on making the cannibal film for the ages and nothing will stop him. As the dysfunctional band of filmmakers settles into the jungle for a week of shooting they unknowingly become pawns in a sadistic game that will threaten the film, and their lives, as they are relentlessly assailed by the spirits of angry natives who will possess their bodies, creating the ultimate in vérité horror.
I pretty much think it to be a statement of the obvious to call Tribesmen a circa 1980’s Italian cannibal flick put to print, but in case it needs to be said, well then there you have it. Tribesmen is a full-on assault on the reader’s senses, loaded with splattery gore and pulpy madness. Author Adam Cesare displays a clear knowledge of not only the cannibal genre, but also of the filmmaking process. If he hasn’t actually spent time on the set of a low-budget “shoot like a guerilla and go” production then he’s damn well got me fooled. He’s got a great sense of setting and description and his characters are richly textured. While many of them are generally unlikable, they’re also clearly meant to be and I found myself drawn into their predicament, anxiously reading towards any sort of hopeful resolution. Not that cannibal films offer such warm and fuzzy closure.
Tribesmen is a quick and enjoyable read, and is meant to be so by design. John Skipp, splatter-punk pioneer and the editor and big idea man behind Ravenous Shadows, describes his indie publishing company as “smart, gripping, kickass pop literature with all the boring shit left out.” The books, more novellas than novels, are designed to be read in the time it would take you to watch a film. At 174 pages Tribesmen rings in true to that philosophy on all counts. It doesn’t bog the reader down with arbitrary details and subplots, and subtextual headiness. It goes straight for the jugular with sharply written prose that delivers plenty of fast-paced action that will have you flipping the pages at lightning speed.
That said, the only downfall to this approach is that Tribesmen is little more than pure pulp. If you’re looking for atmospheric literature, well then you need to keep movin’ down the rails. This ain’t it. To that end, Adam doesn’t reinvent the genre with his story. Yet, by writing in a filmic style, he adds to the oeuvre with his unique fingerprint, and succeeds in a way that other contemporaries have failed by adding a supernatural edge that keeps the trajectory of the story moving in a fairly unpredictable fashion. He actually tells an interesting story, one that will keep you reading until the very last sentence. It’s not heady, but it’s not boring. I’ll put it this way, it’s a lot like hitting up the drive-thru for some gut pleasing fast food at midnight after a raging party. It hits the spot, satisfies, and gives you exactly what you expect.
Tribesmen by Adam Cesare was published on March 26, 2012 by Ravenous Shadows.