Spooky Movie Festival 2012: “Ninjas Vs. Monsters” Reviewed

Posted by Michael Parsons on October 17, 2012 in / No Comments


(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.

556555_10151084992823411_965345305_n-500x333Action/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.

“Ninjas Vs. Monsters” was screened at the 2012 Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival at the AFI Silver.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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