Tribesmen is a jet black shot of espresso straight to the heart - a visceral, bloody, intense novella with lightning pacing, deft characterisation, and brutal violence.
I have to admit, I was a bit nervous going in. I’m a fan of Cesare’s work to date, but having read the synopsis of the book, I guess it’s fair to say I had some concerns. When a story talks about a film crew in a remote location, and implies bloody violence, and with that title.. Well, let me put it this way - the ‘30’s King Kong is a hell of a movie, but the racial politics sucks. And I went in with concerns. Without providing any spoilers, for my money Cesare dealt with those concerns admirably, providing a neat twist on what I’d been expecting, as well as a wry commentary on what has gone before in the genre.
And with my liberal guilt assuaged, I was freed up to just enjoy the ride.
And what a ride.
The characters are superb - just the right side of larger than life, appropriately inflated egos with equally appropriate inverse proportions of the talents involved. Cesare has a deep rooted love of genre and filmmaking that shines out through all his work, but perhaps never brighter than here, as he plays with the boundaries of found footage horror and exploitation cinema. It’s knowing, fiercely intelligent writing, but never pretentious or overwritten - he wears his knowledge lightly, and deploys it carefully, adding authenticity without ever taking the focus away from where it should be - the characters and the story.
The story itself is a belter - the relatively quick running time meaning there’s not an ounce of fat. The pacing is relentless, as events quickly spiral totally out of control. There’s references to Cannibal Holocaust, Lord Of The Flies, and no doubt others I missed, but this is no mere pastiche. Cesare has his own tale to tell here, and tell it he does, with skill and an admirably iron stomach. The reveal of the central conceit was very well handled, and the subsequent twists and turns kept me guessing right up to the finale - no mean feat, given the kind of tropes in play.
Tribesmen is a real beast - fierce, passionate, bloody, smart. It is emphatically not for the weak stomached. But if you like your horror rare, there’s a lot to recommend here. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Purchase a copy here