Ninjas Vs. Zombies Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
Written and directed by Justin Timpane
2008, Region 0 (NTSC), 90 minutes, Not rated
Cory Eskridge Okouchi as Cole
Carla Okouchi as Lily
Dan Guy as Randall
Daniel Ross as Kyle
PJ Megaw as Eric
Daniel Mascarello as Fitz
Sometimes a title comes along that seems like a sure thing. Ninjas vs. Zombies sells itself with little room for audience confusion. Once you've heard the name, it comes as a surprise that it is a film that has not been made before. Unfortunately, the movie delivered is not the epic experience the title suggests. While the filmmakers clearly love the material, the final product is cheapened by a muddled script that wants to appear more clever than it is.
Randall's brother Eric (PJ Megaw), has been magically brought back to life with the power to raise the dead. Randall (Dan Guy) must now convince his friends Fitz (Daniel Mascarello), Cole (Cory Eskridge Okouchi) and Kyle (Daniel Ross) that Eric is "evil" and is assembling an army of the living dead. With the assistance of some lovely lady friends Lily (Carla Okouchi), Ann (Melissa McConnell) and Kara (Tara Moore), and the newly bestowed powers of the ninja, our heroes step onto the suburban battlegrounds to fight the zombie threat.
Ninjas vs. Zombies is at times a fantastic looking film. The picture on this screener copy is quite impressive, featuring strong colors and detail. When the film chugs along on its own wheels it is quite enjoyable. The production employs a nice ensemble cast. Many low budget films suffer from a lack of experienced actors, but the majority of the talent here is quite sincere. Genre fans may recognize the director Justin Timpane's name from his acting work in films like Dead Hunt (from Timewarp Films). Timpane pays tribute to those who have helped him in the past with fun cameos from various members of the Timewarp family, including the always-enjoyable Leanna Chammish.
The film has some nice production design and plenty of good locations, both of which are welcome in the world of micro-budget cinema. Action scenes are well-choreographed and competently executed, but run a little long at times. While the plot works on its own, a few scenes could be trimmed or lost all together in lieu of pacing. There are some nice laughs and even a few surprises along the way, but the film is weighted with an albatross.
Have you ever seen a project written by Joss Whedon or Kevin Smith? So has Timpane. Genre fans will race out to see a Quentin Tarantino movie, while the geeks will line up to name drop every film the man ripped off. This is mentioned because a strong writer can borrow from existing material and make it new. Tarantino, Smith, and Whedon are fantastic writers with varying levels of success as directors. Their style flows so naturally that it fools lesser talent into believing that anyone can write this way. Timpane's dialogue does not flow naturally, although he may be a fan, he does not have the ability to make this style his own.
Timpane has a good eye, but his writing is getting in the way of his directing. The script falters in this tired retread of knowing "how guys talk." The results are a poor imitation (think "Buffy" interpreted by Rich Little). I remember a friend that would eagerly repeat funny Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy jokes. Everybody laughed, but my friend didn't share the comedian's gift of storytelling. Ninjas vs. Zombies is a competent film that will entertain the audience, but in a Xerox way that would suggest wanting to see Bruce Lee…only to end up watching Bruce Leigh.
Video, audio and special features will not be reviewed, as this is a screener.
Ninjas vs. Zombies will speak to an audience that loves genre films and crazy mash-ups. The film will entertain people and has a shot at developing a cult following of devoted film geeks. I hope the filmmakers will continue to make the movies that they want to see. Mostly I hope the director finds his own voice and steps out of the shadows of others.