MOVIE REVIEW: Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe

In 1979, the government funds an expedition to the mountains near the Mongolian border where some unexplained fossils have been found. The groups leader is Professor Yang (Wang Qingxiang) who has recruited a soldier by the name of Hu Bayi (Mark Chao). Also in the group is Ping (Yao Chen), a beautiful young woman that Hu Bayi quickly falls in love with. She also just so happens to be the professor’s daughter. When an explosion cuts off their only way out, a group of volunteers have to venture into the unknown in order to find a new way to civilization. Instead, they plummet into a cavern that leads them to an ancient temple, one that awakens the demons within and the only person to escape with his life is Hu Bayi. Cut to the present day and a series of mysterious happenings begin to occur raising Hu’s suspicions. He’s now set in a quiet life as a librarian but that’s all about to change when he’s approached by a man who claims to have seen Ping alive. Hu will set off on a dark adventure, not only to find the woman he loves but to save the world from the evil unleashed by the temple.

CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE is a 2015 fantasy/adventure film from China. It’s based on Tianxia Bachang’s novel “Ghost Blows Out the Light”. While it was initially released in 3D, the edition from Well Go USA is not. That was actually a bit disappointing to me mainly because when I was watching it, one of the first thoughts I had was how cool a few of the shots would have looked in 3D. Either way, CHRONICLES is highly entertaining, even if the story feels a bit disjointed at times. When you’re dealing with adapting a book, compromises must be made and I’m sure the overall story suffered, but only just a little bit.

Lu Chuan does a fine job behind the directors chair, he keeps the suspense built while still leaving room to play up a tragic romance. One thing I’ve always admired about Asian cinema was how they handled the tragic love stories. Sometimes they can bit a bit overly melodramatic but in this case I really enjoyed how it plays out. The film is very well cast and it’s very easy to sympathize with Mark Chao’s character. The film may however require additional viewings in order to fully grasp the story. It jumps around quite often from past to present and isn’t always clear as to where it ends up.

There are several rather stunning action sequences. Of course, the CGI is the real star in the moments but how it’s handled and the creatures that are created really give the picture an air of uniqueness. Chuan is mostly known for smaller arthouse films but with CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE, he proves he knows exactly what to do with handfuls of cash. Just slightly uneven, the film delivers a rollicking good time with it’s outlandish creatures and state of the art effects. Foreign film is most certainly alive and doing well.

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