Ninjas vs. Zombies (2010)
Starring: Daniel Ross, Cory Okouchi, Carla Okouchi, P.J. Megaw, Dan Guy, Daniel Mascarello, Melissa McConnell, Tara Moore, and Will Stendeback
Director: Justin Timpane
Rating: Four of Ten Stars
Three friends are granted the magical powers and combat prowess of The Ninja when a necromantic ritual unleashes a soul-sucking, zombie-creating demon on a small American town.
As low-budget action spoofs go, "Ninjas vs, Zombies" is fairly well accomplished on the technical front. The special effects are well-deployed, both the practical gore effects and the digitally generated "magical energies" and muzzle-flashes and explosions. Director Timpane seems to have a good sense of how to film action and martial arts scenes, and the editing generally helps cover up budgetary shortfalls rather than emphasize them. The main technical disappointment about the film is that the foley artists could have been on the job more, as there are several fight and effect scenes that are less effective than they might otherwise have been.
The acting is better than I've come to expect from films at this level of production, with lead heroes Daniel Ross and Dan Guy being particularly skilled and fun to watch. P.J. McGaw also gives a good accounting of himself as the root of all evil in the film, and the rest of the cast and supporting players are also quite good.
Unfortunately, everyone is let down by an inadequite script. Written by the director, it feels like a first draft, with flabby and repetative scenes and dialogue, particularly early on, and, worse, irrelevant scenes and pop cultural references that distract from the film's central high concept of Ninjas kicking Zombie ass without adding anything worthwhile to the mix. I suppose with Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer somehow still having careers and still making shitty comedies that consist of little more than stringing together random references to popular movies and pop culture, it was only a matter of time before a new generation of filmmakers started to copy them. (It also doesn't help that some of the character interaction feels like it was lifted from a Kevin Smith movie. Stealing is a time-honored tradition among script-writers, but one really should take one's screenplay through an extra draft or two to hide the sources a bit better. Even if it means bringing in a co-writer.
I think there is all sorts of potential for a great horror and/or action comedy when it comes to pitting Ninjas against zombies. I also think that potential is on display in this film, but it remains mostly unrealized. It's better than most of the Godfrey Ho patch-work Ninja films, but it's still not a film to go out of your way for, whether you're looking for a comdy, a zombie film, or a ninja picture. It might make a good second feature for a bad movie night, if your group has patience for films with slow wind-ups and irrelevant detours.