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Ninjas vs Zombies

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Release Date: 
Seminal Films
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Justin Timpane
Daniel Ross
Cory Okouchi
P.J. Megaw
Dan Guy
Carla Okouchi
Bottom Line: 
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All Hollow’s Eve…Halloween…Trick or Treating. Traditionally, this is the night for all types of undead to rise up and haunt the living. October 31st is the date that sees skeletons, ghosts, ghouls and vampires all stalking prey and scaring innocents.

You don’t usually see ninjas in the mix.

“Ninjas vs. Zombies” is the debut film of director Justin Timpane, who pulled together enough resources to make a comical, entertaining tale. The premise alone should have teenagers lined up around the block. Not since Fulci’s “Zombie”, where the title character fights a shark, has there been so enticing a battle between the living and the deceased.

NVZ tells the story of Randall, a heartbroken practitioner of magic who uses a powerful book to bring back his older brother, Eric. The problem arises when Eric reveals himself to be a soul-sucking, slick-tongued sadist intent on creating an army of zombies. Why? Who cares why? You can’t have ninjas vs. zombies without zombies!

Randall, now having fucked things up royally, recruits three of his buddies by casting a spell and making them into ninjas. This makes for some quick and violent character development and the initial scenes where the ninjas realize their powers are some of the best in the film. Soon, the story winds around relationships, mysticism, love, good and evil, and something about comic books and Dungeons & Dragons.

Really, they’re both in there…in oddly appropriate amounts.

NVZ, like many low-budget films, is not without its flaws. In this case, there are a lot of characters, and viewers may be left wondering why they should feel compassion for a few (including fuck-up wizard Randall himself). The first half of the film launches a bevy of stories, and the tie-ins aren’t explained quickly or clearly. The lack of focus makes it difficult to keep some of the names and relationships straight.  In contrast, the pinnacle of the film falls victim to a tried-and-true formula, providing little fresh territory for viewers (until the final scene).

The NVZ cast and crew would more likely hear “hilarious” than “compelling” in any recap and the film hits the comedy mark perfectly. Kyle (Daniel Ross) is armed with many of the movie’s best lines and his comedy timing is gold. The writers clearly wanted to pay homage to cult films of all types, including “Evil Dead”, “Clerks” and “Pulp Fiction”. Not only did they do so in the form of dialogue and visuals, but NVZ is as quotable as any of those movies.

The acting in the film is steady, with a few standouts. PJ Megaw is consistently good, drawing the same energy from evil and funny lines alike. William Stendeback milks every moment of his time on screen. The fight scenes are well-shot and choreographed. The mix of techniques and athleticism of the cast and stunt crew helps to weed out any obvious, flat-footed performances and keep the scenes upbeat and moving. Duanne Barbour (Cloud Eagle Entertainment) and Megaw obviously know their stuff.

The NVZ cast chose to hold the “World Premiere Bootleg Screening” in the historic Tally Ho cinema in Leesburg, VA.  The theater also serves as the setting for the final confrontation in NVZ.  The Halloween night premiere featured a first cut of the film, with friends, family and fans in attendance. The cast and crew were enthusiastic and open with anyone and everyone present. Save for one drunk woman, who couldn’t put aside politics for even a ninja movie, everything was enjoyable.

Timpane and his crew have been charging ahead full-throttle with the completion of NVZ (expected in another month or two). The cast was out in full garb at the Baltimore Comic Convention and several other venues over the past few months.  The feeling of excitement is obvious in everyone from the extras to the executive producer.

With the premiere behind them, the future of NVZ and its crew remains to be seen. The film sets itself up nicely for a sequel.  With a little success, a lot of luck, and the determination this group has already displayed, a great future isn’t far behind.

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