Chris Emerson and his younger sister Nicole come to Luna Bay in order to start a new life. They apparently were orphaned a few years back, and that trauma, together with the pressure of having to look out for Nicole (who, we learn, is “almost 18”), caused Chris to go off the rails a bit, which is why he had to leave professional surfing.
They have an aunt in Luna Bay, but Aunt Jillian is at the same time pushy and stand-offish. She greedily charges them 650 USD per month for a derelict beach hut.
Luna Bay, we assume, is located in Southern California not too far away from The Lost Boys’ Santa Carla. There is no fairground, but the city and the beach front shops offer a picture similar to the first film. You can see a lot of “victims” of the 70s: old hippies, old drug-addicts, old loonies. There is at least one dumpster-diving child near their beach hut, and there is even a semi-naked sax-player – all these elements are, of course, an homage to the first film.
And just as Sam in the first film is warned early on that the city is not safe, so is Nicole in this film, by a young admirer called Evan, who leaves her his phone number. Chris, meanwhile, is looking for work in a surf-shop and is told the company who might have use for him is called Frog Brothers. Looking for their remote premises, Chris and Nicole only find a shabby trailer on a red-neck-style property with lots of signs saying things like “you are not invited in”. And since no-one seems to be at home, the simply leave a message.
Over the next couple of days, Chris runs into people from his past, former surf rivals and the like, with whom he has not got the best relationship. Nicole is more inclined to meet new people, and things come to a head at a wild party that will change their lives forever.
Stylistically, this film differs from its predecessor. Apart from some extra sex and nudity, this film also has a fair amount of gore. Not much more than the first film, but of a different quality. Again, this is 2008, not 1987.
Nine years earlier, director P. J. Pesce helmed a reasonably decent sequel to From Dusk Till Dawn (The Hangman’s Daughter), which I enjoyed quite a bit, despite the fact that it felt rather derivative. That is also one of the problems with The Tribe. It tries to emulate the first film and, in fact, was at one early planning stage intended to be a remake (according to imdb). Now, The Hangman’s Daughter is proof that Pesce is very good at emulating an earlier tone and style, and at producing a very decent homage. But the The Tribe got stuck in a weird no-man’s-land between being an homage to the first film and trying to invent a new style and tone for a sequel that takes place two decades later. Being more adult-oriented (as I said, with a fair bit of sex and nudity), the film has no kids’ plotline like the first film. But that also means that the film misses the charm of that plotline from the first film; and it means that the film needs to find its comic relief elsewhere.
One intended avenue for comic relief is the character of Aunt Jillian, but she is altogether too unpleasant for this too work. Evan pops up throughout the film, and he works as a comic relief in some way, as his flirting skills are lacking, and he has a really bad luck with timing.
Both characters, by the way, are presented to us in excellent performances by Gabrielle Rose and Greyston Holt.
Speaking of the cast: Tad Hilgenbrink and Autumn Reeser are well-cast for the roles of Chris and Nicole, and they give very good performances. There is also quite a bit of stunt-casting (or rather: “homage casting”) in this film. Corey Feldman returns as Edgar Frog, and cameos have been filmed for Corey Haim and Jamison Newlander, although only one of them made the cut. The most remarkable of these casting choices, however, is that of Angus Sutherland as the main vampire character. By casting Kiefer Sutherland’s younger half-brother, they kept a symbolic connection to the first film, while creating a major supporting character that has both dreamy and threatening vibes. This is 2008, and unlike Kiefer Sutherland’s 1987 character this is pretty much a vampire for the aesthetics of the Twilight generation.
The other vampires, however, do not fit that new style. They are still unruly, anarchist douchebags just as their counterparts in the first film. Thus the Shane character does not seem to fit well into his group of followers, unlike Kiefer’s character in the first film. One thing the two films have in common, however: these “other” vampire characters are entirely negligible; basically just completely underdeveloped slayer-fodder.
While the first film had a distinct atmosphere, drawing on the fairground as its main vibe, The Tribe lacks to establish a clear world it is set in. Much is made of Chris and others being surfers, but nothing comes of it. There is some motorcycle-cruising, as in the first film, but this time it is mixed with some skateboarding-antics which must have seemed rather outdated in 2008. The film lacks any real momentum, and what little momentum there is gets killed by a slightly protracted hide&seek showdown in the run-up to the finale. Dead West did the same thing (though far worse in terms of “protracting”), and it seems to me that hide&seek can probably never work that late in a film because of the momentum-problem.
The biggest problem in terms of writing and casting is the character of Edgar Frog. Reportedly, Feldman had initially only been offered a cameo, but he refused to appear in this film unless he could reprise his role as Edgar Frog and have his role extended quite a bit.
But in The Tribe, Feldman’s character is left dangling like a loose end in a film whose stlye he does no longer fit. Feldman returns to Frog as if no time had passed. Edgar still wears the same ridiculous Rambo-style outfit and affects the same 1980s action-movie voice. This was rather fun in the first film – seeing a kid do that kind of stuff – but now it just feels extremely weird. Edgar Frog is not a hero vampire hunter, he is not even a passable sidekick – he is a guy you feel sorry for, a guy suffering from arrested development. You half-suspect that he has suffered some kind of trauma as a child (possibly because of the events of the first film) and therefore never managed to grow up – in that sense, he is the actual Lost Boy in this film.
Maybe the filmmakers thought they might be able to use Feldman’s character to introduce some levity, or some more comic relief. But for audiences, Edgar Frog will appear either unfunny, or outright sad.
All in all, this belated sequel is not entirely awful, but it is unnecessary and uninspired. I’d rate it at about 5.5 out of 10.
PS: Apparently, there is a short series of prequel comics for this film, by the name of Reign of Frogs. But by all accounts they are not that great.