Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ninjas vs Vampires – review

Director: Justin Timpane

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

Sometimes a low budget film has heart, it might not be the best film in the world but you can see that the filmmakers enjoyed what they were doing. Ninjas vs Vampires is like that, it does much wrong, some right but has a big old beating heart at its centre.

This is the sequel to Ninjas vs Zombies and, I must admit, I have not (as of the date of this review) seen that film. More regarding the ninja’s characters, how they became ninjas and other background is likely in that film. I am also aware that it was at the end of that film that one of the ninjas’ number, Lily (Carla Okouchi), was turned into a vampire (probably enough for an honourable mention in the future).That said, this lack of viewer knowledge did not trip the film up.

Aaron and Alex
After credits showing a vampire attack we meet Aaron (Jay Saunders) and Alex (Devon Marie Burt). He is messing with a video camera and they have been best friends for years. He asks her to be his girlfriend… and crashes and burns. His hurt is short lived, however, as then they are attacked by vampires. Just as it seems the end is nigh, ninjas appear and kick vampire butt.

The first complaint comes in here. There was way too much reliance on cgi for blood and vampiric demise – especially as it looked cheap and nasty, but never mind. The ninjas kill all the vampires and one of their number, Ann (Melissa McConnell), who happens to be a witch teleports the ninjas and Alex out of there leaving Aaron down for the count.

Carla Okouchi as Lily
Why leave him behind? Plot expediency (and the excuse that there has never been more than one survivor before). Anyway, he goes to Alex’s home and she is there but has no memory of events past the point when he asked her out and, it transpires, cannot retain the idea of vampires in her head (this leads to some on-running gags). Aaron goes to his friend Reefer (Justin Timpane) who offers him a clue to the truth. He should go to the comic book store and watch the guy in there, Cole (Cory Okouchi). Aaron follows him and sees him with Lily and Ann. He is approached by Kyle (Daniel Ross, Mrs Amworth), and thinks Kyle is a delivery guy – when in fact he is the fourth ninja.

Aaron is caught, but leaves a panic stricken voice mail for Alex. They try and question him and realise that he cannot have his memory wiped. Alex turns up at their base, due to the voice mail, and Ann makes the decision, against Cole’s order, to turn Aaron into a ninja (this is an occult act and yet he then has to have weapon training, one would have thought the skills would have magically appeared in his head). Unfortunately the vampires, led by Seth (Kurt Skarstedt), are about to declare war.

bad sunlight fx
The vampires drink blood and fry in sunlight – but can wander about in daylight by the use of judiciously held blankets. Their headquarters has magic glass (which is a 1000 years old but looks like modern glazing!) that prevents them frying during the day. Ann has a pendant that Seth wants as it will make him invincible and truly immortal. Staking and chopping their heads off seem fairly good ways to kill vampires. They need inviting in, unless a vampire lives in the house, and take the memories and powers of their victims. Lily is weaker than other vampires as she does not drink human blood.

Maximillian and the Bishop
I have mentioned bad CGI. Dialogue-wise the filmmakers clearly tried to go in a Kevin Smith type of direction. This works for the ninjas, who seemed comfortable in their roles. However, if the acting was good on that side of the house, the vampires were pretty universally badly acted. The budget limitations are all around, in the cgi, in the day for night shots and in the costuming. One masked vampire, the Bishop (P.J. Megaw), looked okay. However the post-apocalyptic roman look for vampire Maximillian (Will Stendeback) looked awful, cheap, silly and plastic – the acting was pretty dire in that case as well.

Jay Saunders as Aaron
Despite the problems, however, as I said at the beginning the film had real heart. Jay Saunders has a wonderfully expressive face and the dream sequences he was given were genuinely funny. I think 4 out of 10 is on the generous side but the big ol’ heart deserves it. The imdb page is here.

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