Ancient Behemoth: Inostrancevia (2023)

Rating: C

Dir: Bo Yao
Star: Wan Guopeng, Jingping Wang, Xiaodong Zhao

This seems to be quite the obscurity, with little about it known beyond its existence on Tubi at the time of writing. Unlike many of the Chinese films there, it’s not distributed by ITN. There’s no pre-film logo at all, so seems to have made its way on to Tubi independently, with a very generic poster (below). There’s no IMDb page by that title, and the only Chinese film matching the word “behemoth” is a documentary about herdsmen and mining, or something. The director’s name doesn’t turn up anything, and the credits don’t come in English, so I could not match any of the characters to their actors. You’ll understand, therefore, why I am vaguer than normal on the details.

What I do know – albeit having learned from Googling the title – that Inostrancevia  was a real dinosaur. Bit of a bad-ass by what I’m reading. About 10 feet long, and “possessing large canines, the longest of which can reach 15 cm and probably used to shear the skin off its prey.” The version we have here is bigger, and also considerably more spiky than the pictures on Wikipedia. This is explained by the creature in the movie being the product of genetic tampering, with DNA spliced in from elsewhere. Based on the way the creature looks (top), hedgehog DNA appears a factor. A giant, monstrous one of those would certainly be the stuff of nightmares. Hey, if it can work (albeit for some loose definition of the work “work”) for rabbits, why not for Mrs. Tiggywinkle?

The story has a group of college students, part of an “agricultural ruins adventure club”, going to an island in the middle of a lake. This is in defiance of the fact that, less than three minutes in, we learn just about everyone on the island mysteriously disappeared 20 years. Perhaps it does not appear on any map for good reason? Despite this, and the traditional loonie local showing up near the shore, yelling ominous things like “Blood-stained inner door!”, they persist to their destination. It’s not long before they find themselves being picked off by the Inostrancevia, and the survivors have to figure out how to defeat it. Fortunately, the dinosaur hybrid has seen Jurassic Park and so is aware that it can only detect movement.

It is a nice monster, and available in a couple of sizes, depending on cinematic need. The problem is, we do not get enough of it. The creature opens strong, and the finale is pretty cool as well. The problem is the middle chunk which drags significantly, with too much sitting around the forest and/or the ruined research facility. Mr. Loonie Local shows up again, to no great effect. The ending revives and is adequately well-staged, enhanced by the unexpected return of a character that we’d written off (or, at least, forgotten about). But if I was the Inostrancevia, I would be having a stern word with my agent.

This review is part of our feature, When Chinese Animals Attack.