Judge Maurice Cobbs once ate a zombie. With mustard.
Who do YOU think will win?
These days, you know, zombies are a bit like bacon.
You know how you always liked bacon, because it's so very good and tasty? And maybe even because they said it's not good for you, which of course just makes it taste even better? Maybe—now be honest, here—maybe it even made you feel a little smug, because you got to devour the crispy deliciousness of the bacon while all those hippier-than-thou health nuts were sucking on their granola bars and reeking of patchouli oil. You were above it all. You were awesome. Better than mortal men. A cut above. You ate bacon—delicious, greasy, fattening bacon—and loved it. But that was before some jerk decided to 'mainstream' bacon. Now it's everywhere. You can't get away from it. Once a love of bacon made you part of an exclusive club. It set you apart from the crowd. Now every d-bag on the street talks about how awesome bacon is, not because bacon is indeed awesome (which, in fact, let's face it, it really is), but because it's hip. Trendy. You can get bacon stickers, bacon soap, bacon vodka—one schmoe even came up with a bacon AT-AT. Seriously. So all of a sudden, what was cool and exclusive became grossly oversaturated and crassly commercial. In short, it's been ruined.
Well, I kinda feel that way about zombies. They used to be cool. Suddenly they became…well, popular. At first, it was sort of cute, this mixing zombies with everything. It was almost subversive, you know? And then, suddenly, without warning, zombies, impossibly, were cool. What had been the exclusive province of the oddball, the freak, the geek, or the extreme horror cinephile was suddenly being thrust into Jane Austen novels. How had things gone so horribly wrong? As much as it pains me to say it, there are just too many zombies shuffling around.
And now we have this film, a mashup of awesomeness—Ninjas vs. Zombies. Well, why not? I've seen ninjas on rollerskates; ninjas who also happened to be mutated adolescent testudines; and even a ninja who fought alongside a river pirate, a scientist, and a cyborg killer (remember The Exterminators?). So eventually, somebody pretty much had to pit reanimated cannibal corpses against Japanese shadow-warriors. It's just too precious not to do. And yet, every gut instinct tells me I should hate this thing. The acting is often sub-par, the direction is rudimentary, the dialogue relies too much on quotes from and references to other movies, the story is beyond absurd—plus, everything about the movie looks and feels, well, cheap. Even the DVD seems less than it might have been: The sound is uneven and the video is less-than-impressive. I've seen dozens of these basement-budget amateur productions and they all turn out to be fairly unwatchable because with the relative cheapness of half-way decent equipment and editing software, practically anyone with delusions of Fellini-ness (or worse, Tarantino-ness) can find enough friends and loved ones with community theater aspirations to cobble together something vaguely resembling a feature-length film. What took me completely by surprise is that these enterprising young men have put together something that, through sheer force of personality, manages to transcend its flaws and deliver, against all odds, a fun and entertaining attempt at a supernatural action-comedy. You know how you've been saying how tired you are of all the slick, glossy, soulless big-budget Hollywood screen spectacles? Well, here's a chance for you to put your money where your mouth is, and support a sincere low-budget gem that has more than enough charm and enthusiasm to make up for what it lacks in the technical areas.
I won't try to explain the convoluted plot here, partly because I couldn't do it justice in a few sentences and partly because this one is better experienced if you haven't any idea what's coming next. Suffice it to say that there are ninjas, and they do fight zombies, so in that respect, at least, the film is exactly as advertised. How they get to that point, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated (and amusing!) than you might think. Writer/director Justin Timpane and his willing (if not always particularly able) cast of actors let their geek flags fly high and proud, as the film careens from one fanboy fantasy situation to another. The result is an inspired amateur production that makes me wonder what Timpane and company might be able to accomplish with a few years of experience and a halfway decent budget to work with. In the end, the questionable acting, hokey special effects, shamelessly stolen movie lines and moments and genuine affection for all things unbearably awesome in cinema align nicely to make Ninjas vs. Zombies far more than the sum of its parts. It's an unexpectedly fun movie experience. And it has a deliriously catchy theme tune by Nick Bognar. What's even better is that they're already planning for the follow-up: Ninjas vs Vampires.
Go on. Give this one a try. You might be surprised. And hey—it's gotta be better than Zombies Versus the Super Ninjas, right?
Not guilty. You're throwing away a fortune here! Don't be a fool!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Seminal Films
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