Are you a fan of low budget indies and hokey horror action shows celebrating geekdom? If so, you might want to give the “Ninjas vs.” movies a look. I’d suggest watching them from the start to build up the momentum, to get to know the characters, and to see the evolution of the creator’s vision.
NINJAS VS. ZOMBIES (2008)
A while back I blogged about Ninjas vs. Monsters, the third in a trilogy that begins with Ninjas vs. Zombies.
While this one, filled with cheesy CGI effects, rustic makeup and gore effects, repetitive instrumental metal music, and amateurish battle scenes, is a far cry from that much more polished third film, kudos to the entire crew for their dedication not only to making one film, but building on what they created to tighten up their future projects.
I watched the extended edition of this film with an added 15 minutes, which may not be a good thing. It does tend to drag a bit before the action finally kicks in at the 55-minute mark, after lots of character development, humor, and geek talk (home base is a comic book store).
The plot concerns a bearish guy who uses magic to bring back his dead brother. But now, the resurrected brother is out to kill him and all his friends with the help of an army of zombies. So the reluctant group of friends has to go all ninja on the undead brother’s ass.
Obviously, this is a pretty epic plot for a low budget first film, so it’s easy to point out how it fails to live up to expectations. However, knowing ahead of time what creator Justin Tampine would work his way up to by the third film, I guess I have a more objective perspective.
I definitely feel the strength of the film is after the 55-minute mark. The pace picks up, the action gets more frenetic (which helps mask the limited budget and experience), there are better zombie battle scenes, and the film generally feels more focused. It’s a really good demonstration of the filmmaker’s potential.
NINJAS VS. VAMPIRES (2010)
The first sequel is a major step up from the first film, beginning with the opening scene of a woman being attacked by a vampire in the woods.
It’s also rather deceptive if you don’t know what to expect from this film, because it feels like a genuine horror movie opener, but minutes later, we are thrust into the more sci-fi/action universe of this “Ninjas vs.” franchise.
The cast from the first film is back and really solidifying itself as a dedicated monster hunting team in the tradition of popular TV shows of the new millennium (Supernatural, Buffy, Being Human, etc.). In fact, “Ninjas vs.” feels like it should be a series on TV, where its straightforward plot lines, campy tone, and charming cast would be appreciated.
The characters are charismatic, their banter is very natural and playful, and they’ve seriously stepped up their game in terms of fighting stunts. Even the special effects during battles, while reliant once again on cheesy CGI, are an improvement and benefit from more detailed visuals of monster body parts being sliced and diced in entertaining ways.
In a sense, the film is also just more of the same, with a main baddie leading a pack of vampires instead of zombies, as well as one of the girls from the group getting kidnapped, but it’s all about the hack n’ slash action anyway.
To play up the chemistry between the characters, there are some scenes of them goofing off—like a somewhat drawn out practice battle session—but this film runs a more reasonable length of 90 minutes. It also ends with a setup for the next movie. Not to mention, the main baddie is sizzling hot, and shirtless at one point, which is always a plus.
To top it all off, there’s one freaky looking gimp running around.
Go here to read my blog about the third film.