The small-town, wise-cracking ninja buddies are back, this time battling a hoard of Universal-era monsters in the shape of Frankenstein’s creation, the wolf-man and the mummy. When Dracula calls upon the monster movie legends of yore to battle our heroes in this final instalment of the ‘Ninjas Vs…’ series, he also enlists the help of a coven of scantily clad witches to implement his plans for world domination. Kyle, Aaron, Alex and the rest of the Ninjas must join forces and utilise their newly-acquired powers to send the band of evil demons back to the grave, once and for all.
Ninjas Vs Monsters is a perfect example of the technological advances available to lower-budget filmmakers today, when compared with thirty or forty years ago. With a high stunt count, impressive prosthetic and visual effects, films like these show how the proliferation of high-end kit is allowing amateur production companies to make films with grotesque levels of gore, action and violence to appeal to wider international markets.
The film is highly stylised, with bright, vivid colours and OTT levels of blood and dismemberment, making it a comic book visual treat for those who like their horror fast-paced and quirky. Others, however, might bemoan the bright, jarring fluorescence that seems to saturate the screen at points, while quick cuts and awkward camera angles make the fight scenes both difficult to follow and nauseatingly confusing.
Ninjas Vs Monsters really is one of those movies. Some will love its ballsy, colourful approach to independent filmmaking, while others will curse questionable acting and drawn out kung fu scenes.
When it boils down to it, the film has easily enough ingredients to keep the most geeky horror fan happy; the problem is that it appears to be a world seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy. The use of overtly sexualised female vampires seems somewhat dated, even though they make for interesting, unique characters in themselves. Ironically, references to the Twilight series state this is a production that wants to make vampires dangerous once again; not mere eye candy for schoolgirls and old ladies (to paraphrase one of the film’s more sexist comments). But eye candy for men is clearly fine.
Attempts at humour fall flat more often than not, through either poor delivery or uninspiring source material. The plot is slightly confused and convoluted, so much so that the film makes explicit effort to sum up events for the viewer and clarify the story as it develops. We seem to jump from long, kung-fu scene to explanatory narrative and back again for much of the duration of the film, with cheesy one-liners and fetishised female enemies to demarcate its various segments.
Having said all that, however, it must be pointed out that this is a film, and indeed a franchise, that doesn’t take itself seriously. We only have to think as far as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 for an example of how the combination of horror and farcical comedy can be done.
In reality, many viewers might belittle the aforementioned grievances as merely the whinging of a PC fascist – as a little harmless humour – but it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that objectified female characters and gun-toting male heroes are best left to the cinema of the past. Think Jess Franco.
As it is, however, the ‘Ninjas Vs…’ franchise is and remains incredibly successful in terms of its status as an amateur production, and clearly a huge amount of time, effort, skill, money and enthusiasm for the horror genre has gone into making this final instalment.
Ninjas Vs Monsters is released by UK-based indie label Left Films, and this edition will please fans to no end. Special features include deleted scenes, an alternative ending, trailers, accompanying music video and a tribute to the late Brian Anderson, Executive Producer on the film.
Words: Iain Todd