Written & Driected by Justin Timpane
Starring Cory Okouchi, Dan Guy, Carla Okuchi, & PJ Megaw
This is one of those films that looks to be a labor of love, made by a group of friends with a couple thousand bucks and some time to kill. It’s far from a slickly made film, but one can see the passion and effort put into this thing by all involved. So where most may scoff at this type of low budget indie, I find its simplicity charming and worthy of mention.
This movie very much wants to be CLERKS meets SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but comes up a bit short in the end. The story focuses on a group of twenty-somethings that look and act like they tumbled out of the movie CLERKS (one of the characters is even named Randall) and into this one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the interaction and bickering between the main characters is one of the highlights of this film. But while CLERKS spends most of its time being firmly placed in the real world, NINJAS VS ZOMBIES goes for more of a SHAUN OF THE DEAD/STAR WARS vibe where these slackers are forced to take on evil forces. At its core, the film is about two brothers who work in a comic shop and just happen to experiment with magic. One brother wants to be an evil master of darkness, the other fights the good fight. If the conflict sounds comic-booky, it should. The guys who made this film actually have comic book spin-offs for NINJAS VS ZOMBIES and a sequel to this film already in the works called NINJAS VS VAMPIRES. There’s even a catchy theme song! You certainly can’t accuse these guys of lacking in ambition.
NINJAS VS ZOMBIES has a humorous tone throughout and though all of the humor didn’t have me slapping my knee spastically, there were some pretty funny moments. Those well versed in geek culture will probably have a lot of fun as a large amount of the humor references to films like EVIL DEAD and other horror and martial arts classics. All in all, the humor hit the target around 70% of the time, which is pretty good in my book.
The acting ranges from decent to not-so-much depending on the actor spouting the lines. Like CLERKS, the writing is stronger than most of the actors here, so I often found myself conscious of the script and admiring that beyond the more amateur performances. Some of the actors, especially the main villain (who reminded me of Eric from TRUE BLOOD), did a pretty great job and had some decent comedic timing. Others read their lines like they were reading a eulogy. But as I said before, the amateur quality of this film is more endearing than anything else.
I don’t want to oversell this one. It’s not a perfect film. All in all, those expecting a big budget masterpiece are going to be disappointed in NINJAS VS ZOMBIES, but if you go into this one with an open mind and a consideration for the passionate folks making it, you can’t help but have a good time with it. The guys making this film have seen all the movies we have and are obviously having a blast playing ninjas and zombies. Despite the fact that the film, at times, looks like it was filmed in someone’s backyard, NINJAS VS ZOMBIES is a fun work of geek cinema that deserves a viewing.