I am not a film maker. I’m not a screenwriter. I’m not a director, producer, or even a gaffer. I’m not even a best boy. My experience with making movies is limited to being made to hold the camera for my dad on Christmas morning. Whenever I review movies on this site, it’s less about being critical of a film and more about celebrating what I enjoy about a film. I don’t feel like I have any real ground to stand on and be critical of the work that someone else does. I know what I enjoy and I know what I don’t enjoy. So, more often than not, I try to just talk about what I enjoy.
So, it was with great hesitation that put in this particular movie, knowing I had been asked to review it on the site. What if I didn’t like it? What right do I have to get online and tell my three readers that they shouldn’t give something a chance? What if I really like it, but everyone else hates it and stops reading my blog or listening to my podcast because I’m stupid? What if no one ever sends me a screener again because I didn’t like this movie?
I put way too much thought into this. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a movie that’s about ninjas fighting zombies, and you know what? It works. It really does.
Without attempting to spoil too much of this thing, I will say that what Justin Timpane and friends have come up with here is a fun little romp through a truly independent film. This is a pretty gutsy endeavor by Timpane and crew in that, they did all the footwork, raised all the money and put it all out there on this one film. That’s an independent film. While it may not win any Independent Spirit awards or be recognized by the Golden Globes, it’s definitely worth checking out. Especially if you’re a fan of zombies, ninjas, or magic-oriented tales.
The story starts out with one of our lead characters, Randall (Dan Guy), employing magic to raise his brother Eric (PJ Megaw) from the dead. He is interupted by a guy who is very remniscent of Rick Moranis’ character from GHOSTBUSTERS. It’s a very funny bit to cap off a weird opening. Unfortunately, Eric is raised from the dead, but he returns as quite evil. He begins to go around sucking former friends souls from their bodies and turning them into zombie, using the energy of their souls to give him power.
I guess many zombie enthusiasts may have a problem with the origins of zombies in this movie, but as someone who is only peripherally interested in the genre, I didn’t have too much of a problem with it.
From there, it becomes clear that something is going to have to be done about Eric’s evil tirade. So it is that Randall, and his friends Cole (Cory Eskridge Okouchi), Kyle (Daniel Ross), and Fitz (Daniel Mascarello) have to step it up to take on Eric and his zombie minions. It’s from this decision to fight Eric that we get Ninjas. Randall uses his magic to make his friends accomplished ninjas. From there it’s an all out romp.
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.
The sound design leaves much to be desired. Some of the acting falls a bit flat (maybe a result of time constraints and an inability to do too many retakes.) The cinematography is obviously crippled by budget. The special effects are things we’ve seen hundreds of amateurs put to use on YouTube videos. But, none of that matters because it all plays into being part of the charm of this movie.
And this movie does have a certain charm to it.
This is a movie made by people who love movies. They’re not going for the next big artistic, thought provoking, independent film. Rather, the film makers accomplished what they set out to do. Entertain.
While one or two of the fight scenes feels a little like a homemade Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fight scene, there are a couple of good fights. Particularly the climatctic battle between Eric and the gang.
Whenever the zombies start to come in full force, Timpane and crew do a wonderful job of creating the claustrophobic feeling that most zombie movies lend themselves to. To me, that’s the scariest part of the zombie genre – the feeling of being closed in by all of these creatures that cannot be reasoned with on any level. This is done particularly well in a final fight with Zombies in a crawl space under a house.
While some of the plot points fall a little flat or don’t seem to have any real place in the movie, this movie does have heart. The enjoyment of the actors and crew in making this movie oozes through the screen in every shot. These people are like the proverbial kid in a candy store. The sheer pleasure of making a film that is such a fun project comes out in nearly every shot.
Stealing the show is PJ Megaw as Eric. He delivers a performance that is memorable and does a great job. Eric carries himself with a dark humor that is at once compelling and off putting. Megaw walks that line perfectly until at the end he is through joking (almost) and unleashes his pure evil on the heroes. One of the funniest lines comes in the final battle as Eric declares he’s sucked so many souls that he’s too powerful to stop. To which Cole replies, “You definitely have sucked.” Eric muses, “I walked right into that one didn’t I?” and the fight resumes. Megaw stands out among the rest of the cast. None of whom are “bad” per se, Megaw seems to be able to do the most with what he’s given. It may be that he’s that good, or it could be the classic case of the villain being the easiest character to get into. Whatever the reason, Megaw, from his first moment on screen right up through the end steals the show whenever he’s doing his thing.
The comedy of the film is probably more well done than anything else. (I feel like funny is something I can speak to pretty well.) There are a few points where the timing of the delivery is a little off and while the joke is funny, the delivery lessens the punch a bit. However, there are some funny bits right from the outset. A few memorable one’s include:
-“I thought Dungeons and Dragons was tomorrow night. Why are you dressed like this with all the candles lit?” “I’m…uh…practicing.” “You’re the coolest guy I know.”
-After being told to think about what they want to look like and the book will transform them Kyle tells Randall no on the grounds of “HAVEN’T YOU SEEN GHOSTBUSTERS?”
– Cole, in a job interview quotes Han Solo, and it’s an obscure enough quote from the original trilogy that it fits in the scene and makes a Star Wars fan smile.
– Fitz’ uniform to go fight zombies, and what happens once he’s suited up.
Those are just a handful of the laughs I got from the film, and there are some others.
Can I recommend this film? I think I can. If you’re willing to sit down, have a good time, and not put on your “I’m an amateur film critic” glasses, then I think this is a movie that is easy to enjoy.
I’d be interested to see what Timpane could do given a substantial budget and time to make something similar to this. Who knows? Maybe one day we will see just that. In the meantime, look for Ninjas vs. Zombies and at least give it a rent. As I’ve told people since I first watched the movie, we’re either looking at one of the next great cult classics, or watching a train wreck, either way…it’s worth looking.
In fact, head over to www.nvzmovie.com to check out a trailer and get some more info on the movie.
I have to honestly give this move a 3 out of 5. I think it’s definitely worth the time taken to sit down and enjoy.