Journey to the Forbidden Valley (2017)

I’m not sure what happened.

Chris Wallas, the special effects master who was responsible for designing Joe Dante’s Gremlins, was acclaimed in the Eighties for his incredible creature effects.  But by the mid-Nineties, he’d fallen out of favor and virtually vanished.  I suppose, with the rise of cheap digital effects, movie makers just didn’t feel the need for his practical creations.

And then, for some reason, in the mid-Twenty-teens, he and Ethan Wiley teamed up to make two films together.

Wiley hasn’t exactly had a distinguished film career, although he made one of my favorite Eighties Horror comedies (or whatever you’d call it) House II: The Second Story — with a bit of creature help from Chris Wallas.  It doesn’t seem that odd that he would ask Chris to create a Yeti for him.

But it is a bit of a surprise that he had Chris write the script for this film from his original story.  After all, this is the only feature film to date Chris Wallas has written.

A young boy and his tutor take a flight aboard a tiny commuter jet to join the boy’s father at the big engineering project he’s working on.  Others on the flight include a brash young business executive and an old man on his way to his wife’s native village with her ashes.

But things go wrong, and far into the mountains of a distant region of China the plane crashes into a mysterious valley the locals hold sacred.

While at the same time a group of bounty hunters in search of the elusive Yeren — which we know better as the Yeti — have secretly entered the valley, planning to capture the legendary beast alive.

This is very much a family film, without the gore or excessive violence which could easily have been part of the story.  There are a few mildly scary or intense moments, and some even milder violence, but it shouldn’t be too much for anyone other than the youngest children.

As you’d expect, the Yeren is surprisingly well done, with the sort of long, stringy hair that shows up in sone of the supposed Bigfoot scalps. Its face is expressive without that somewhat artificial look that animatronic enhanced masks often have.  It’s not exactly a memorable design because, well, it looks exactly like what we’d expect a Yeti to look like.

Which is fairly impressive when you think of it.

While an American production (or co-production), the film was shot in China and actually has a lot of subtitled dialogue.  However, they’ve made sure that you can still more or less follow everything even if you don’t read them.

I’m sure the kids will appreciate that.

The end result is a pleasant little film which you wouldn’t be afraid to show the kids.  For a (mild) change, we get a Yeti which isn’t an unstoppable horror film monstrosity, and the rich businessman isn’t scenery-chewing evil.  It’s nothing special, just an entertaining family film.

With a great Yeti…



(Watch for free at Tubi)

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Which this time focuses on…Mike Nesmith???

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