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The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe - Blu-ray Review

Title: Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe


HTS Overall Score:73

“Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” is actually the first film in the “Tomb Raider” like film series based off of the Chinese novels. I reviewed “Mojin” a few months back and it’s sitting there in our reviewed list if you want to go back and see how the sequel fares after watching the original entry into the franchise. It’s usually strange to review and watch the sequel before the first movie in the franchise is released, but the two movies are really only held together by tender threads. The names and personas of the characters are all the same, but actors and plots are different, with each film almost living in their own universe, with some of the plot points and relationships transferring to the other, but many times the having very little to do with each other. It’s almost as if the powers that be didn’t like how “Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” turned out and decided to kind of semi reboot the series with the sequels. We see some familiar names and places, but histories and relationships are tweaked a good bit to the point where you don’t have to really acknowledge the other to enjoy whichever one you’re watching at the moment.

Hu Bayi (Mark Chao) is living right in the middle of the cultural revolution of China. Cranking out the man hours he’s subjected to the over the top nationalism of the Chairman Mao and directly afterward era of Communism, and he’s slaving away at a dig sight in the mountains. There’s he’s under the command of Professor Yang (Wang Qingxiang) and his lovely daughter, Ping (Yao Chen). While there the crew find an ancient passage that leads them directly to a hidden fortress in the mountains. It seems that Professor Yang new about its existence and reveals that it is a place known as the “Demon Pagoda” and that Hu Bayi and Ping are the only two people that can open the gate. Stopped by a lone soldier, the trio of adventurers are set upon by demonic bats that destroy everything in their way as well as unleash a monster that takes ping from her father and Hu Bayi.

Years later Hu Bayi is living in the pain and misery of his loss in the mountains, but this pain and misery is about to come to fruition. A group of men who work for a shadow organization, called the 749, approach Hu Bayi and inform him that Professor Yang was found miles from the mountain years ago and that Ping had been found as well. Although Ping is exhibiting supernatural signs and powers, being code named “Shirley”. Professor Yang has wandered off and the 749 want Hu Bayi to go along with Shirley and find him. Hu Bayi refuses until he is clued into the secret behind the demon pagoda. It seems that thousands and thousands of years ago an alien race came down to earth and almost enslaved the entire planet. After Prince Yi of the humans defeated the race, the last of them were scattered across the earth and interbred with humans. The Demon pagoda was the last remnant of this “ghostly tribe” and if ever opened would allow a portal to be created that would bring the rest of the race across the rift to be enslave the humans once more, and with Shirley exhibiting powers from this lost race, something MUST be done to protect the human race.

“Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” is really NOT a prequel to “Mojin”, as much as they are similar. In fact they are almost competing films. What happened was that two directors (Lu Chuan and Wuershan) were given the rights to make adaptations of Tianxia Bachang’s novels and the two directors each took a different book. Lu Chuan was just lucky enough to have his film released a year before “Mojin” and be thought of as the “prequel” (even though they are just different takes on the same source material novels). Thus each can be seen with their entirety without needing to see the other (although it does help to see the other one to get different aspects of the characters fleshed out even if they are done by different directions with differing goals).

“The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” is not nearly as obtuse as “Mojin” is early on. Instead we get a nice buildup and backstory to rely on rather than stumble around in the dark with characters that already seem to have a history like we did in “Mojin”. We see Ping (Shirley) and Hu Bayi’s relationship unfold, and even the introduction of Wang Kaixun (Li Feng this go around). However it does suffer some similar traits. There are way too many loose plotlines that just seem to fade off into the sunset. We understand that Hu Bayi is the descendent of Prince Yi, but his connection with the Ghostly Tribe (who seem to never be seen except for Shirley) and Mr. Wang’s powers and guidance seem to fall by the wayside once the expedition to go find Professor Yang is underway. In the same vein you can tell that the film REALLY wants to set itself up as a continuing franchise, as very little is resolved by the end of the film, and we even have the main characters setup to complete another quest with the last few lines of dialog. That’s a little frustrating and manages to temper the fun that the first few acts had (otherwise I honestly would have rated it above “Mojin” instead of being on par with it).


Not Rated by the MPAA

Having seen “Mojin” first I have to say that “Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” is a HAIR less “pretty” as its sequel. “Chronicles” tends to have a slightly more honey and teal colored tint the color grading and the exploration seems to be a bit more subdued and less brightly lit than its sequel. I can’t say for 100% certain, but the film appears to be shot digitally and given a 3D release (like “Mojin” was overseas) in its theatrical release, but given a 2D home video disc over here in the states. There are a few scenes where you can see the slow motion pop outs that lend itself toward the 3D presentation, and the digital noise embedded in the encode seems to indicate my suspicion of a digital transfer. Fine detail is good, to almost, great and shows off plenty of intimate clothing and skin details for the audience to enjoy. There’s some dodgy CGI sequences with the demon beasts and the tomb of Prince Yi, but that’s pretty much par for the course as Asian Cinema seems to be very sloppy with the CGI but puts a lot of effort into the wardrobe category. The major issue that seems to crop up every now and again is the ever present banding in the darker bits. Watch the opening 15 minute when the monster comes to take away “Shirley” under water. This banding also persists in a much more minor way throughout the film if you’re looking.

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in the Mandarin dialect is quite good, with a solid ambiance and impressive surround usage throughout. I noticed right off the bat that this one felt a LITTLE less beefy in the LFE department as the sequel, and that while it sounded great, watching the two back to back showed a few distinct spit and polish moments that allowed “Mojin” to outclass its predecessor. Still, the LFE is powerful, and the dialog is always strong and intelligible at all times. Vocal presentation stays firmly in the center channel and the surrounds get a lot of activity with the demons stomping around and the gunfire splattering over the sound stage. It’s a very immersive track with some great sounding battle scenes, as well as the quitter moments as Hu Bayi whispers in Shirley’s ears. Overall an impressive sounding track that does the genre good.


• Making of Featurette
• Original Trailer


“Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” acts as a fun little “prequel” to “Mojin” for those who have seen it, or the original deal for those who saw “Ghostly Tribe” first. Personally I would have to say that neither film is really better than the other, but that they each fill a distinct niche in the adventure category. It’s best to categorize each one as a separate film and not interconnected, as you can tell the powers that be changed and adjusted character dynamics and events to fit in with “Mojin” a bit more due to not being able to get actors back for the sequel. Still, It’s a fun little adventure movie that really feels like an Asian extension of “The Mummy” series more than the “Tomb Raider” vibe of the sequel. Audio and video are on point and just what one would expect from Well Go USA, and despite the lackluster extras, is still a fun watch for those of us who appreciate the genre.

Additional Information:

Starring: Mark Chao, Li Feng, Chen Li
Directed by: Chuan Lu
Written by: Chuan Lu, Bobby rother
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 118 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Buy The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Fun Watch

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