By Merle Bertrand | December 20, 1999

Let’s step back into ancient history; back to the dawn of the video revolution when a “Sundance” was a low-end Chrysler product and film festivals, held only in such exotic locales as Venice and Cannes, were strictly for black-clad Hollywood producers and their over-endowed starlet companions. Back in those ancient times, all of about a decade ago, aspiring filmmakers flooded the home video market with no-budget studio knock-offs. Some shot their “films” on video, others on 16mm, and a few even used Super 8 on occasion. The theory was as simple as it was deceptively unrealistic: get your film into Blockbuster, went the thinking, and you could write your own ticket for the next one. I should know. That’s what my partners and I thought when we made “Quest for the Monkey God.” It must be what director Matt Pacini is still thinking, as his ponderous and lethargic Super 8 occult thriller “Lost Tribes” seems to be lifted straight from that outdated paradigm.
Like “Quest” or Steve Wang’s visually astounding “Kung Fu Rascals,” the latter pretty much the Rolls Royce of Super 8 epics, the simplistic “race to recover the magical artifact” plotline of “Lost Tribes” shamelessly apes such studio fare as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Pacini’s deliberate descent into the B-Movie realm also comes complete with a strangely lifeless dash of sexploitation. While the few teasing moments Pacini offers — a little bondage/ritual sacrifice here, for instance, or some all-girl tomfoolery there — are all well and good, they certainly don’t compensate for the other 85 minutes of tedious and unnecessary plot exposition, wooden acting, murky sound, bland photography, and dialogue as stilted as, “Perfect. We’re always looking for new blood.” Still, it’s at least refreshing to see someone out there, in these wussy days of video and DV, still trying to make a new-budget movie on film. It’s just a shame that “Lost Tribes,” like many of its previous generation’s cousins, isn’t very good.

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