Monday, 7 February 2011

Review - 'Alien Vs Ninja.' You'll never guess what it's about.

Do you really need a synopsis? Really?

Yes, it's every bit as simple as it sounds. There's these ninjas, right. And then... get this... there's these aliens. And you'll never guess what, right... the ninjas and the aliens start fighting and shit!

I missed the opportunity to catch this at FrightFest 2010 (see my coverage at Brutal As Hell) because seeing the movie would have meant missing the last train home. Even so, there is no time slot more appropriate for Alien Vs Ninja than the midnight hour. This is filmmaking at its least meaningful and least intellectual, with no motivation other than to provide a short, sharp burst of knowingly absurd, low brow entertainment. And all in all, it does just what it sets out to do. It faces a few hurdles for sure, the biggest being the proliferation of films of this nature coming out of Japan in recent years. From Tokyo Gore Police to RoboGeisha to Big Tits Zombie, world cinema aisles in DVD stores far and wide have been inundated with low budget, DV-shot Japanese movies full of lethal cybernetic appendages, baby doll pin-up leading ladies, and gallons of gore. While amusing at first, the sheer number of these kind of movies has seen the joke get old very fast indeed.

In fairness though, Alien Vs Ninja does stand apart from the aforementioned films in some respects. First off, and this may not be a surprise given that it's only rated 15, it's not so gory a film as some of its forebears. No severed limbs are replaced by Videodrome-esque killer cyborg parts here. Nor is there quite the same emphasis on T&A, given that there's only one female in the ensemble cast. Instead, Alien Vs Ninja plays for the most part as a relatively down to earth beat-'em-up, which just so happens to feature rubbery blue lizard men who wouldn't look out of place in a 70s Doctor Who episode. And happily enough, the fight scenes are for the most part pretty damn good, which cannot be said of all films of this ilk.

As seems to be popular with Japanese fantasy movies, it's shot entirely in woodland areas (can't help wondering how many footpaths and picnic tables are just out of shot), following our black PVC clad heroes as they head out to investigate what appears to have been a meteor. Of course, you already know what they find. Following this annoyingly slow and verbose opening half hour, we have around forty five minutes of extra-terrestrial ass-kicking, wherein the impressive fight choreography and stuntwork mostly makes up for how feeble everything else is. Yes, it's virtually plotless, or at least what little plot there is presents nothing of interest. Who really cares when the emphasis is squarely on the action, where it belongs?

And going back to the subject of T&A - yes, there may be only one female in the cast, but by gum the filmmakers seem hellbent on getting their money's worth out of her. Lady ninja Mika Hiji may remain fully clothed throughout, but the camera is never far away from the shiny black rubber stretched tight across her buttocks (see the DVD cover above for further evidence) or the strategically placed armour plates on her torso. One particular fight has to be seen to be believed, often looking more she's dry-humping the alien rather than battling him to the death. Meanwhile, the long scaly tail that comes swooping toward her from between the alien's legs may look suspiciously like something else... but hey, by comparison with certain other Japanese exports, this is considerably milder than it might have been. Legend of the Overfiend it ain't.

As previously stated, the abundance of absurdist low budget sci-fi schlock horror fight flicks from Japan (not the most succinct summation, perhaps) has resulted in the subgenre growing stale rapidly, and Alien Vs Ninja is by no means free of the same problems that plague its peers. Happily, it has just enough stylistic flair and showcases enough genuinely impressive martial artistry to transcend its limitations. You can't say fairer than that.

Alien Vs Ninja is out now on Region 2 DVD from Revolver Entertainment.


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