If Jon Favreau’s upcoming ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ adaptation is just too far away to quench your thirst for nonsensical and silly extraterrestrial cultural crossovers, then the new release from Japanese studio Sushi Typhoon and director Seiji Chiba (Evil Ninja) entitled ‘Alien vs Ninja’ may well be the dose of dead brain action you’re after, so long as your appetite isn’t after anything in the realm of fine, expensive taste.
One would expect the plot to be fairly minimal and straight forward, given the title, and they would be absolutely correct. A group of ninja warriors on their return from a dangerous mission (or shopping trip, it’s not really specified but with ninjas it tends to be the same bag) spot a falling comet from the sky, and after being ordered to investigate the crashed UFO they discover a group of highly ferocious and inexplicably threatening monsters. Upon seeing what the beasts are capable of the warriors stand together as swords, martial arts and ninja weaponry are matched against tentacles, claws and weird…possessive worm things in the understated battle of the century.
This East meets outer space action film ticks all the boxes of cult, shlockarific entertainment: almost no story, poor special effects, inconsistent acting, gross-out humour, shoddy camera work, cheap costumes and a set where you can likely spot the gift shop if you keep your eyes peeled. Naturally at no point through the running time though did this reviewer expect anything else, instead the more it fell below the bar the more my smile rose.
The ultra Z-grade budget is noticeable right from the start with obviously implemented CGI effects and darkish wood backdrops that suddenly turn to pitch black soundstages, only getting worse as the pink ice cream like blood drips from severed alien limbs. But by the end when the ridiculousness is ramped up you’ll be ROFLITing when the main ninja is holding on for dear life to a flying alien in a mixture of terrible green screen and computer effects work. Excellent choreography by Yûji Shimomura of Versus fame can be seen in most of the major battles, particularly the square-off near the end between the primary ninja protagonist and his zombified comrade, with some real ingenuity behind it to boot, though too much of the film is plagued with our ninja heroes dossing around doing not much at all, leading to a running time that feels padded and far longer than it should feel.
As mentioned the shinobi costumes are tacky, but they do look fairly badass; a cross between the ninja Gaiden attire and a grim Power Ranger suit, and whilst there are nods to the Iga-ryu school of ninjitsu don’t expect anything in the way of historical accuracy. The Alien’s outfit on the other hand is perhaps the most laughable aspect of the film; comparable to the classic H.R. Geiger alien if it had the head of a dopey looking dinosaur, there is never any broken illusion in the film that it’s a man in a rubber suit. That said to mock the lacking semblance of realism with a serious mind misses the point of a lot of Japanese cult entertainment. From the Godzilla movies to Tokusatsu super hero shows, the throwbacks to silliness over substance can’t be ignored, and sure some of those works did try to convey subtexts, but unless you maybe argue alien foetuses being wrenched out of throats as a metaphor there’s nothing here that requires extended level thinking.
Whilst AvN realises its comedic pleasing potential and delivers some hilarious low-brow moments and ludicrously bizarre spectacles, the first half hour of misfired character comedy from the bumbling, inept ninja sidekick and the awkwardly and annoyingly camp…whatever he was unfortunately make it a little un-enjoyable to start with, and whilst it ranks high in the best of the worst it doesn’t come close to the more well known winning failures of bad cinema. Never the less, if you and your equally low-tasted buddies are knocking down some beers and need a film with a guaranteed ‘what the fuck did I just watch’ seal of approval a good viewing this will make.