The Tribe Movie Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Released by Terror Films
Directed by Roxy Shih
Written by Ian Paxton and Chris Manask
2016, 97 minutes, Not Rated
Released on February 10th, 2017
Ann Winters as Sarah
Jessica Rothe as Jenny
Chloe Beth Jones as Danika
Michael Nardelli as Ryan
There’s a rare thing that happens when you start watching a movie you desperately want to like and end up being disappointed. More than sadness, what you feel is a bizarre state of frustration that comes from shattered expectations. On one hand, when that happens, it is entirely your fault; you should never start watching a film with expectations. On the other hand, a good premise, a polished look, and a solid trailer are hard to ignore. Roxy Shih’s The Tribe promised to be a gritty, violent tale of post-apocalyptic survival, and while that is exactly what it is, the holes in the narrative, some bland performances, and a buildup that proves to be too long end up turning the movie into a decent but forgettable entry in the long list of end-of-the-world survival stories.
In The Tribe, a family of three young sisters, the youngest of them mute, survive in a world decimated by a bizarre pandemic by staying in the home and land their father left them. Their relatively calm existence is altered wildly when a stranger appears on their land. The young man appears to be just like them, but after earning the trust of two of the sisters, the rest of the man’s family shows up. What follows is a tale of violence, insanity, and wanting to survive at all costs that spirals into a sad, inevitable ending.
There are some elements of this film that work very well. It has a gritty, desolate look and a heavy atmosphere. There are some stunning shots of the sky above the sisters’ house and land. Also, some of the performances are convincing and the silent scenes are aided by a solid soundtrack. However, the movie does too little too late. Basically, this feels like a somewhat decent short story that was elongated into an hour-and-a-half movie, and the need for more meat, as well as more connective tissue, soon becomes obvious. For starters, while the lives of the sisters before the stranger shows up is engaging, the rest of the narrative becomes painfully obvious once the young man shows up. Just like you don’t open the strange box you found in that grave while hanging with your buddies in the woods, everyone knows you shoot strangers on sight after the apocalypse. Failure to shoot them leads to all those things a never-ending supply of end-of-times flicks have already shown us, and you know none of it is good.
The acting and look of this movie go above and beyond those of most indie/low budget productions, especially when it comes to the three sisters, played by actresses Jessica Rothe, Anne Winters, and Chloe Beth Jones (her silence and single smile in the entire movie more or less carry the dramatic weight of the film, along with Winters’ anger). That being said, there is not much to work with here. The pandemic, which is still around, is never discussed; the fate of the girls’ father is touched on but doesn’t add much to the story, and the crazy-religious/philosophical madman touches used in the third act lead nowhere. Plus, some of the secondary characters are so thin they seem to have been put there just to be killed.
The Tribe walks a fine line between a sci-fi thriller and a drama, and the elements belonging to the second genre are perhaps the ones that keep the film from being a complete mess. The tension that builds after the strange men show up makes the end of the movie feel satisfying, and that’s something a lot of movies fail to achieve. When pulled together, the acting, score, photography, and healthy doses of violence and fear overpower the shortcomings to make this worth a watch, but not one that requires immediate attention.