CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE (九层妖塔) DVD (2015)
Synopsis: The Mongolian Border, 1979: Massive fossils of unknown creatures are discovered in the mountains, and the research team assigned to excavate the remains includes acclaimed Professor Yang (Wang Qingxiang), Hu Bayi (Mark Chao), and Ping (Yao Chen), the professor’s beautiful daughter. When a freak explosion triggers a rockslide, only a handful of explorers survive the fall to the mountain's floor...unearthing an ancient temple and the hideous creatures waiting within. Now living a quiet but tormented life as a librarian, Hu studies demonology manuscripts, seeking answers for that fateful day. Little does he know Professor Yang has just been found wandering the mountains thousands of miles from where he supposedly died; a young woman with amnesia was just discovered in a recently-uncovered tomb; and a Northern Chinese mining town has just been ravaged by giant, ravenous beasts...
Despite its obvious oriental theme, The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe follows Hollywood’s formula of delivering epic, spectacular effects driven movies and the result is horrendous.
Set first in 1979 and spanned across several years, The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe is about the uncovering of a mysterious pagoda that can awaken an evil tribe. A soldier Hu Bayi (Mark Chao), medic Yang Ping (Yao Chen) and her Professor father are the three key personnel who posses the knowledge and ability to unlock the history behind the demonic pagoda. But wait, there’s also a Bureau 749 (sort of a facility that is in charge of the supernatural) led by Han (Li Guangjie) and Chen (Rhydian Vaughan) and Bayi’s fat buddy (Feng Li) acting as the comic relief and many other more secondary characters.
The less you know about the story, the more you are going to enjoy The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe. Frankly, the visual is often rich enough to take you away from the convoluting plotting written by Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death) who also directs this monster adventure. There are so many plot holes and inconsistencies that even Lu Chuan himself couldn’t contribute a reasonable conclusion to the whole hoo-ha that a sequel is hinted in the closing scene. To make matters worse, the original writer in which the basis of this movie is based on took the film companies involved and Lu Chuan to court for drastically altering his material. And that probably sums up why this entire affair ended up so badly onscreen.
Story aside, the technical aspects of it is actually pretty decent. It is often well shot by cinematographer Cao Yu (Kekexili), offers plenty of CGI that ranges from good to serviceable and a cast that chips in decent performances even though they are let down by a story that bites off more than it can chew. Monster fans will be delighted by the appearances of tiny but fiery firebats and werewolves-like gigantic creatures that roam the streets. There’s even a sea monster lurking around waiting to slurp up Yang Ping liked a wanton. If you feel liked dozing off by the end of the first hour, you might like to fast forward to the last 20 minutes of the movie where an exciting battle is going to take place in a deserted oil town.
The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe opens promisingly enough. It lures audiences with its promise of prehistoric monsters, mythology and science fiction but liked an unfortunate earnest explorer, everything got buried under a huge avalanche in the end.
The extras consist of a brief Making of and a Trailer.
The DVD offers a spectacular listening experience with its rich surround Dolby Digital 5.1. The visual is crisp and strong. Dodgy CGI is obvious at times but this has nothing to do with the quality of the disc.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee