Chang’An Fog Monster, (长安雾怪 or Creature of the Mist) takes place during China’s Tang Dynasty in, you guessed it, the city of Chang’An. The film actually opens with a shot of the creature before we see what looks like cigar smoke being blown onto a miniature city. With that also comes a horde of CGI tentacles some of which impale people and carry them off, others have mouths and swallow their victims. It reminded me of the Japanese kaiju, Dagora, the Space Monster, but the film’s overall inspiration owes more to Stephen King than Ishirô Honda.
Caught on the street during this are a Prince (Cheng Qi Meng, Longmen Town Inn, Drunken Master Su Qier) and his bodyguard Xiao Cheng (Luo Li Qun, Land Shark, Snake 3: Dinosaur vs. Python). They manage to find safety at a nearby inn filled with the usual assortment of survivors. There’s a female warrior, a hooker, a drunk, a full of himself waiter who is not happy that mere commoners are defiling this upscale establishment, etc.
Unfortunately, after a fast-paced opening that puts the six-minute preview to good use, Chang’An Fog Monster slows down and becomes a weak version of The Mist as the characters bicker and try to figure out what is going on. And to add to the confusion, Xiao Cheng keeps having flashbacks involving his young daughter. This may have played better in its native language but I saw the version on Tubi which is dubbed and not very well. At one point during the creature’s initial attack Xiao Cheng tells The Prince to cheer up. And the waiter is given an annoyingly high-pitched voice like a bad effeminate gay stereotype from an 80s comedy.
Thankfully director Lu Lei (Mad Shelia) gets things moving again with an ill-fated escape attempt that cuts the cast down and introduces a young girl who looks a lot like our hero’s daughter. We also get some monsters that look like the Terror Dogs from Ghostbusters and a flock of flying creatures. Unsurprisingly, given the setting, the creatures turn out to be the result of black magic and a plot against The Prince.
Chang’An Fog Monster has an already short running time of sixty-six minutes and nearly ten minutes are taken up by credits leaving Chang’An Fog Monster less than an hour to tell its story. That turns out to be its saving grace as it means there is enough going on to keep the film from lapsing back into a festival of lousy dialogue.
The CGI in Chang’An Fog Monster is surprisingly good for one of these films, it’s about what you would expect from a low-budget film, and even when it doesn’t work it’s never laughably bad. There are even a couple of prop creatures to add a bit of realism to some of the scenes of them getting the sharp end of a sword or arrow. There’s even a bit of well-staged wirework mixed into the monster fighting to help keep things interesting.
Kaiju fans will be disappointed that the giant creature really doesn’t do much except hover over the city and let its tentacles do all the work. There are no Mothra or Rodan-styled scenes of demolition to be found in Chang’An Fog Monster. The ending is also somewhat disappointing with a half-hearted take on The Mist’s brutal finish followed by a closing scene that could be either the start of a sequel or what we just saw was all a dream that’s about to come true.
Chang’An Fog Monster is available under the title Creature of the Mist on Tubi as well as on DVD in a badly dubbed version released by ITN. It’s available on YouKu’s YouTube channel as well but not with English subtitles, although you may be able to figure much of the plot out without them. Either way, it’s worth an hour of your time if you’re into creature features. And if you want more like it, FilmTagger can suggest some titles.