On October 31st, 2008, horror fans filled the Tally Ho Cinema in Leesburg, VA, to see filmmaker Justin Timpane’s movie, “Ninjas vs. Zombies.” The film mixed comedy, gore, and high-flying martial arts into a fun, 90-minute popcorn flick. The audience enjoyed it, and Endlight Entertainment went on to release NVZ on DVD; creating a cult buzz, and the inevitable path to a sequel.
That sequel is Ninjas vs. Vampires.
NVV opens with long-time friends Aaron (Saunders) and Alex (Burt) hitting an impasse in their relationship. Aaron wants to be more than friends. Alex; not so much. As they’re breaking up, the couple is attacked by a pack of vampires. Clearly, they’re food for the fangs, until a pack of ninjas step in and save them.
It turns out that the vampire lord, Seth, is after a target – not the ninjas – but rather one special witch. Aaron wakes after the attack and goes to find Alex to make sure she’s okay. When he does, he discovers that she has no recollection of the vampires, and can’t process any mention of vampires or ninjas, despite his multiple efforts.
Seth invites other vampire lords (The Bishop. Maximillian, Lorna, and more) to his estate, where he reveals his plans. Meanwhile, Aaron meets with Cole; the man he seeks out for ninja training. Aaron seems to be losing his mind as he films his pursuit of Cole. He flees once he is discovered by Cole’s crew, only to find that they’re the ninjas, not the vampires (except Lily, who is a vampire – long story).
Kyle (Ross) the funny ninja, Cole (Cory Okouchi) the serious ninja, Ann (Melissa McConnell) the witch, and Lily (Carla Okouchi) the vampire attempt every trick they know to wipe Aaron’s brain, but nothing they try works. After they debate, the team decides to educate and train Aaron. What follows is the film’s first fight scene; including a dialogue that would make the late George Carlin proud.
The fight is a trap meant to corner the ninjas and to have The Bishop tempt Lily into joining the members of her own kind; the vampires. The ninjas only win because Ann, the witch, has enough strength to port them away. The ninjas have survived the battle, but the cost may be too much. Ann is weakened. Lily is injured. Aaron still doesn’t know how to fight. The vampires will be back, and the team needs to regroup, heal and teach their new member.
Seth recruits Manson (Daniel Mascarello), a brutal vampire who looks mysteriously like Farscape’s Scorpius. Seth plans on eliminating the lesser vampires and building a new stronger, better breed of bad guys. The final conflict is set in motion. Aaron trains against the ninjas as the vampires use Darwin’s theory to eliminate the weakest among their number.
Next up is the training montage right out of the Rocky franchise. Aaron sucks at first, but his witch-infused blood allows him to gain new skills. Soon, he’s a certified ninja; using nunchuku – a weapon not seen in NVZ. As the men train, the women; Lily, Ann and Alex are left home alone, and they get pummeled, of course (because women in this flick can’t fight.)
This sets up the big battle. Aaron has to suddenly graduate to full-blooded ninja bad ass. Otherwise, he will fail. Kyle, Cole and Aaron have all suffered, and now need to bond or be torn apart by their own values and ideals. The vampires are after the medallion. The ninjas know it’s a trap but will spring it anyway. Bring on the living vs. dead MMA match!
Okouchi, Ross and Megaw continue to improve their acting chops with experience. Cory Okouchi commands his role well. He’s the alpha male on film, and plays the headstrong leader well. Daniel Ross is a lower-cost version of Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury, Fanboys) with more range, and better fighting skills. Saunders comes off like a live-action anime film hero. Ross and Okouchi clearly have developed an on-screen relationship together from their time on NVZ. Burt’s performance is fine, but her dialogue often leaves her appearing clueless.
The villains are mostly a distraction. Each is a stereotype of a comic book bad guy. There’s the mastermind, the bloodthirsty back stabber, the feline villainess, etc. The vampire gathering is a lot like a lineup of Batman villains from the 1960’s TV show. Villainess Lorna (Liz Christmas) is consistently nasal and annoying; channeling Kathy Ireland’s Wanda Saknussemm character from the 1988 film, “Alien from L.A.” Kurt Skarstedt's Seth is one-dimensional, and there’s almost no origin, back story or character development to make viewers care about them or hate them.
NVV’s cast knows their martial arts. There are plenty of techniques and styles used, and the choreography is exceptional. Saunders adds some acrobatics to Ross and Okouchi’s grappling, and the weapon work is well executed. The dialogue is hit or miss with the bad guys missing most often. The story is fine; save for the vampires running around during the day thanks to blankets. The special effects by ADF Studios are well done, and the score supports the pacing well. The soundtrack includes some good industrial tunes, including the NVZ theme by Solarice, and tunes by Nick Bognar, Crocodile, Raw Data, Archeus, Backline and Stan Bush.
NVV is a good blend of comedy and action. The protagonists are likeable and the blend of martial arts makes it worth visiting more than once. Fewer, deeper villains would have helped, but viewers will have to wait for the series’ third installment for that.
The DVD Special Features are limited to trailers for NVV, NVZ and Deadlands 2.
The film’s official site, including links to other social media pages is ninjasvsvampires.com.