If we’ve learnt anything from the recent spate of Something vs. Something-else movies is that they are never as good as we’d like. Cowboys and Aliens was amazingly dull, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus will always be the film that broke my heart. It’s not that you expect the films to be cinematic masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination but what you do expect is schlock-fun. So far the majority of these films have committed the cardinal sin of being boring. A bad film can be hugely entertaining if it’s done badly enough.
Ninjas vs Vampires is the latest from auteur Justin Timpane who previously threw Ninjas vs Zombies at us. The plot follows a young geeky guy called Alex who is in love with his best friend. After she rebuffs him one night they are randomly attacked by vampires and are in turn randomly saved by ninjas. Alex then decides to join the ninjas so that he can stop the vampires from doing something else to the girl he loves. I would be lying if I said I could remember exactly why the ninjas and vampires are fighting with each other and I know it may make me a lackluster reviewer but honestly it matters very little to the film overall. Normally I would be first in line to see a bunch of crafty ninja engage in full blown combat with hulking vampires but seeing that this is a low budget affair the ninjas are over weight and the vampires anemic. It’s like watching Brendan Gleeson unloading a roundhouse kick in Marilyn Manson’s face. In fact that would be a grossly more entertaining film. We’re not dealing with stealthy, shadow-like ninjas here. These guys are look as though they are the kids from 3 Ninjas grown up. Kyle – the overweight ninja – stands out particularly for being the “funny” one. We’re talking Jar-Jar Binks levels of funny here.
But even he is better than pretty much anyone who is on the vampire side of the acting fence. A quick glance at the credits didn’t show a Casting Director so I can only assume that these actors were lured into nets with the promise of cupcakes and forced to act out lines so bad that most sane people would equate the pain to being tortured to death in a snuff movie. Apart from the main vampire, who I assume as the school jock, bullied the director into a role. You really have to see some of this acting to really believe it. It’s one of the rare occasions when you may think “I could act better than that”. You could. I don’t know you but I know for a fact you could act most of these people off the screen.
But that is where most of the films enjoyment comes from. Beholding the complete ineptitude of the acting. In all fairness the actors playing the ninjas clearly know what they’re doing in the moves department. Stood still and talking they don’t look much but they know how to throw a punch. Being a low budget affair the effects look ropey but they could be a lot worse. The camera work looks cheap and the sets seem to be the cast houses and back gardens.
The films major crime – along with the acting – is the script. The reason for a long-standing war between ninjas and vampires is negligible as long it delivers so ridiculously awesome action. It doesn’t. What we get instead is a film that at times goes for Kevin Smith-movie referencing humour (the DVD cover is adorned with a quote from Jason Mewes) to melodramatic, disease-of-the-week emotions. Timpane is not a skilled enough writer to mesh the funny and dramatic into a cohesive atmosphere leading to an almost bi-polar script. The film even ends with a non-sensical twist that seemed to almost be riffing on Super Mario Bros of all films. He’s a man who’s clearly watched a lot of films. Visually and script-wise there are a lot of references to much better films. When one vampire utters “At last we shall reveal ourselves to the humans” complete with Darth Maul hiss I actually wanted to watch The Phantom Menace and for that feat Ninjas vs Vampires can’t be all bad.
Well it is.
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