One great thing about independent film making is that literally anybody can give it a go. This allows stories to be told that may not get green-lit in major studios, or have the mass appeal for smaller studios to make a profit. Once such story is The Lost Treasure. produced, written and directed by Stella Tinucci
Stella Tinucci has crafted her story around a Hawaiian legend of the spear of Māui. The Lost Treasure being a spear once wielded by the mythical creator of the Hawaiian Islands that is said to contain immense power. The Spear being the Mcguffin that keeps the film moving forward.
Searching for the Spear is bad guy Charles Wellington (Dezmond Gilla) who seems to have cajoled a couple of low rent goons, Leilani (Terry Bookhart) and Kainoa (Kava Jones) to aid him in his quest for power. The key to finding its location lies within a journal that seems to be buried in the sand on a beach (missed a trick with no ‘x marks the spot’) and looked after by the mystical ‘Mahina’ (Angelica Quinn). Once the goons locate the journal, Mahina steals it to prevent Wellington from finding the Spear, and passes it to Treasure Hunter Eddie Fox (Josh Margulies) who just happens to be nearby for no apparent reason. It turns out that Eddie is an Hawaiian native who can link his family back generations, and somehow has a link to famed explorer John Young. All Fox owns to show his ancestry is an antique compass gifted by Young and passed on through the generations. The magical compass will help Fox locate the Staff. Wellington sends his goons after Fox and a game of cat and mouse ensues
Tinucci has aimed The Lost Treasure at a family audience. I found the script to be a little simplistic in parts possibly due to the fact I am not the films target audience. For example, in a scene where explorer Fox is working out what’s going, on he points the items out on his desk. He has a Journal, a Compass and a magnifying glass, hmmmm.
The script also suffers from some plot inconsistences. Mahina makes an appearance throughout the film, but she is not really explained. Is she a spirit? is she a witch? A compass is used a couple of times early on and it appears to have a magical property that is not fully explored, and then is unseen until the last third of the movie, and let’s just say the realisation of how it is actually used is not a shock.
The script suffers tonally too. Some dialogue comes across as serious whilst other lines land as comedy. I am sure the cast had a lot of fun but It’s a film that made me laugh at it, rather than with it, so I am not overly sure if The Lost Treasure is intended to be a comedy or not.
The Script is not the sharpest or wittiest writing I have ever seen on screen, but credit should be given for its attempts to tell a unique story. With a bit more development The Lost Treasure could be turned into a fascinating adventure series.
‘’Soon Mr Fox will be out of his hole’’.
Some of this looks to be down to direction, some the script and the rest choices that Gilla makes in his character’s portrayal. This is not to say it’s a bad performance, just a little unsettled.
The rest of the supporting cast give it a good go, but their performances have the look and feel of being straight out of stage school. I was particularly amused by Kava Jones whose facial expressions whist going about his Henchman business are a sight to behold.
The sound quality on The Lost Treasure is adequate for such a production, but not brilliant. At times too much ambient noise is present and this takes the emphasis away from the actors. Sometimes the sound mix isn’t too sharp and maybe bit of post processing noise reduction could have been stronger.
I did not notice any extensive use of foley used on the sound. It seems like production relied on whatever sounds are naturally created and this serves to highlight the films budget and technical constraints. (although I did notice a foley artist in the credits)
The score relies on simple musical cues. Tinucci implements a faster score to heighten action sequences, but sometimes the music is running at a much faster rate than the action. At other times, the score compliments the superb visuals of the Hawaiian Islands.
Earl Louis is running the cinematography on The Lost Treasure and overall has done a super job. Using a mix of Drones and traditional cameras the film includes some great looking visuals of the islands. The use of close-up shots is also well done, with some scenes helped by Louis’ visuals, such as over the shoulder shots whilst reading the journal. It makes for a more immersive experience.
Louis also uses some camera trickery; a forest night sequence is clearly filmed in daylight with the use of some blue filters to make it look like night-time.
The choice of sepia colour grade for some scene seemed a little strange, as not all the scenes feature the colour grading.
To my surprise The Lost Treasure manages to squeeze in a couple of well-paced visual effects. These compliment the story perfectly and are a great achievement. The small budget did show through in one scene where there is a creative use of coconuts instead of guns, that made me giggle!
Attention to detail has been paid to the costume theming, From little cogs on Tanya’s glasses, through to a small stylised pistol being used. It gives the film a sort of steam punk vibe and makes it visually interesting.
Now sitting here in damp England, one thing that I thought was odd was Tinucci chose to wear a short skirt and low cut top in the jungle. Surely she would have been eaten alive by jungle insects – or is this just what the locals wear while jungle exploring?
I like the fact that The Lost Treasure started off life as a crowd funded project, filmed on locations across Hawaii such as the Polo Club in Waialua, Makapu’u Beach, Nu’uanu, and in Waikiki and features local actors and crew.
It’s fair to say though, that The Lost Treasure is an independent film that feels the most ‘amateurish’ of the ones I have watched so far. The budget constraints, sound quality and overall acting prowess make the film look and feel more like an amateur dramatic play, rather than a family movie. That being said, Tinucci’s story of mythical legends and being careful about the abuse of power is inoffensive and accessible for those with young families. If you are looking for higher tier entertainment this is probably best avoided.
What would you give?
Words Garry Llewellyn
An office worker by day and blogger by night. Garry is the creator and writer of The Silver Hedgehog. A Sci-Fi geek (don’t mention Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov unless you have a spare hour) and avid film fan (noted for watching Titanic 8 times at the cinema 🤩). Enjoys writing reviews and blogs in his spare time, and is waiting for the day he gets paid for it!