Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Seiji Chiba
Starring Masanori Mimoto, Shuji Kashiwabara, Donpei Tsuchihira, Mika Hijii
Distributed by Revolver Entertainment
It’s pretty much common knowledge amongst cinephiles – especially those who enjoy their bloodshed – that some of the craziest, most creative, mind-bending and irreverent cinema around comes straight from Japan. Suffice to say, Seiji Chiba’s Alien vs. Ninja lands itself firmly in “crazy” territory. Let’s begin:
Ninja trio Yamata, Jinnai and Nezumi are on the retreat after a successful mission (obviously not a quiet one, being that it ends with a giant CGI explosion) when they notice a large flaming asteroid heading towards the nearby forest. Meeting up with a group of their fellow kin, including the smokin’ hot female ninja Rin, they head off to investigate the landing site.
Before they get there, however, they’re greeted by the appearance of a young frightened boy from the next village and an alien creature that makes short, bloody work of most of their crew before zipping off amongst the trees after Yamata removes the end of its tail. From there we have our group returning to warn their village before going out to destroy the alien menace once and for all. Cue a bunch of lightly comedic situations, gleeful gore, ridiculous guys in rubber suits that look like a cross between a poor man’s Giger alien and a dolphin, and, quite frankly, more fun than you would ever expect you’re going to have after the plodding first 25 minutes.
It would be impertinent to go into too much depth regarding the actual events that occur during Alien vs. Ninja as the sheer escalating insanity of the battles and plotline are what makes it an overall success. To know exactly what’s coming would serve to rob you of that inimitable feeling of sheer astonishment so I’ll cover the negatives first. As mentioned, the first 25 minutes or so of the film is badly paced; it’s obviously designed to act mainly as character development, but save for one pretty well choreographed (yet bloodless) scene of swordplay, it pretty much amounts only to a bunch of walking around in the woods and horribly stilted comedy in the form of the usual comic relief “idiot” character, Nezumi. In fact, this character is quite possibly the worst thing about the entire film – the type of comic relief character that pushes too far, overshooting endearingly stupid and dropping right into the minefield of sheer annoyance. Due to this, Alien vs. Ninja is a difficult one to really get into… but trust me; hold on.
Once the first alien attack occurs, a few dodgy digital effects are thrown about that fail to impress, but it’s also at this point that Alien vs. Ninja ceases taking itself seriously in any way whatsoever. A good thing, too, because once you catch a glimpse of the first screaming dolphin-creature ripping someone in half, so will you. If you don’t, then stop right there; this isn’t the movie for you! With each passing moment the batshit-insane-o-meter continues to fill as we’re treated to flying buckets of gore, disembowelment, decapitation, and underground tunneling monsters, the creatures themselves acting like giant rolling blade-wheels, a perverted alien attempting to catch a grope of Rin’s assets before we’re treated to the sexiest alien battle scene you’ll enjoy in a long time, alien parasites pulled from mouths and, finally, a climax so absolutely fucking nuts that I literally cheered. Once it gets going, Alien vs. Ninja manages to conjure up that same sense of excited bemusement and sheer, unbridled entertainment that I haven’t felt so strongly in a genre picture since Ryuhei Kitamura’s Versus. If that sings to you, then you absolutely must own this film. As a movie, it’s difficult to come down too hard on it, but the failure of the comic relief character to actually be funny and the rather hard-going first act prevent me from going higher than the score below. Still, if you know what you’re getting in for and, ideally, have a few friends and your mind-altering substance of choice to hand, Alien vs. Ninja will show you a whale (or should that be dolphin?) of a time!
Being a low-budget, shot on digital flick, Revolver Entertainment’s DVD release of Alien vs. Ninja presents the feature just about as well as could be expected – though there are still a few noticeable moments of digital blurring during the more hectic fight scenes and dense forest, and the colour can look a little more washed out than intended at times. Still, it’s been given a good amount of love in the presentation department, which is more than can be said for extras. Can we get a trailer, an interview… some behind the scenes footage or a music video for one of the kickin’ J-rock songs from the soundtrack? Nope. We get nothing.
3 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5