(This review was originally published on October 17, 2012 at Reel Film News)
There’s way too much going on in “Ninjas Vs. Monsters” for its modest budget, but you can’t deny writer/director Justin Timpane’s resolve, not to mention his ability, to bulldoze limitations. He does, after all, manage to sustain over 90 minutes of nonstop fighting, carnage and supernatural shenanigans that ended up requiring something like 400 special FX shots to complete. No matter how you slice it, this one is ambitious, funny, and yes, completely ridiculous.
Along with co-writer Daniel Ross (who also stars as Kyle in the film), Timpane cleaves the monotony of the film’s never ending string of melees with some very clever dialogue, full of pop culture idioms and quotes from film classics like “Ghostbusters”, as well as requisite but creatively worded stabs at the “Twilight” franchise. The movie’s title acts as a sufficient synopsis: Dracula summons Frankenstein, the Mummy, and a wolf/man, along with a gaggle of shape-shifting witches, to eradicate the ninjas and their posse permanently. Or something along those lines.
Action/comedy is too broad a term to describe this third entry in the series (after “Ninjas Vs. Zombies” and “Ninjas Vs. Vampires”), which is more specifically a hybrid of slapstick material (often literally) and martial arts spoof, with the horror element acting only as the background for its ensemble of creatures, who apparently carry on quite differently than in the books and movies we’re familiar with. Didn’t I just say something like that about “Hotel Transylvania”?
Note: you’ll need to refer back to the first two films for the rulebook. In this scenario, Frankenstein is portrayed as a combination of the smarmy doctor and his monster (with a hint of Sonny Chiba, apparently). Dracula is more Fabio than Lugosi, lamenting effusively about how their kind are being represented in our culture nowadays(werewolves falling in love with vampires, and such. Yuck). The characters gain and lose powers throughout the movie as erratically as if they’re playing supernatural craps. It felt like I’d walked into a mid-season episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” while on some pretty strong amphetamines.
While not quite Joss Whedon, “Ninjas” displays plenty of characteristics of a filmmaker who’s sure to build a very long résumé, both as a screenwriter and director, in multiple genres. As a trilogy (and we’ll see if it ends here), there’s definitely no lack of vision; Timpane seems to know by now exactly what kind of movie he’s making and who he’s making it for. I’ll admit, I’m a little curious to see how the first two resulted in this one, but I imagine the aspects of the film that I liked the most don’t quite align with that of the target demographic.
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