Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Alien vs Ninja
Here in the Vault it has been noted that I’ve got a bit of a blind spot for these silly low-budget Japanese gorefests. Previous classics that I’ve given my much-coveted seal of approval to include nonsense such as Vampire Girl v Frankenstein Girl, which I think I’m the only person on the planet that likes. However, this little gem promised from the trailer to be something really quite special. Not to mention look at the marketing for it: that fucking quote above is the tagline for the movie! How inspired, and it instantly raised Alien Vs Ninja up my list of films to be watched. My only qualm was that movie with “Versus” in the title are invariably dreadful and long experience has taught me that they should be treated with the same degree of caution that Don Murphy treats Weightwatchers meetings with. Seriously, look at the long and sorry list of them (I’m certain there’s a series here for someone when he’s finished being destroyed by Marvel): Alien v Predator, Alien v Predator: Rectum, Freddy v Jason, all of the “Stupid Animal A” v “Stupid Animal B” films, and so forth. Not one of the above mentioned, aside from maybe Freddy v Jason on a very generous day, I would rate even as high as mediocre. The problem here is how does a film maker live up to the premise of the title?
Well, I think I have the answer. Almost all the above V films are burdened by what can only be described as extraneous nonsense that we don’t care about. For example, Mega Shark v Giant Octopus is positively laden under crap about Debbie Gibson’s attempt to save the whales or something and it’s worth noting that at no point do we actually give a fuck about our human characters. We paid our money to see the prize-fight, we didn’t pay to listen to the announcer talk about his kids for hours. What we want is a brief introduction to our characters and then the rest of the film to be pretty much balls out action between our two contenders. In the case of Alien vs Ninja, Seiji Chiba the director, isn’t remotely concerned with niceties such as subplots or character development; instead being only interested in the ass kicking. Which, to be fair, is bang on because in all honesty that’s all I’m interested in as well.
The film opens with our three Ninjas, led by Yamata (Masanori Mimoto) finishing off a job. Yamata is seven shades of badass, and accompanied by refugee from a Japanese Boyband Jannai (no idea who the actor is) and fat loser (hereafter called “Cretin”, and I’ve also no idea who it is) escaping through the woods. Yamata, incidentally, is so fucking badass that he can use his sword to deflect shurikens into the head of whoever threw it, while Jannai tends to use his sword to look at his own reflection. Cretin is just a fat loser, and possibly the worst Ninja in the entire history of Ninjitsu. Seriously, he’s got the stealth skills of Michael Clarke Duncan in a midget convention. Our three intrepid Ninjas witness a fireball crashing, and after a surreal interlude with the local gang boss (a fat homosexual pirate) are accosted by a very slimy man in suit who bleeds 1000 Island dressing when cut. The Aliens have nefarious plans that I didn’t really understand, but this is all really just an excuse for messy gore and hilarious fighting. Anyhoo, bolstered by the arrival of Mika Hijii as Rin, our team must fight the aliens, zombie Ninjas and so forth. May the best man win, and LET’S GET IT ON!
This is an absolute riot. For a start, the film’s trump card is Hijii, who is not only fucking gorgeous, but also redefines limber. The film is also highly aware of how attractive she is, so wastes no opportunity to exploit this. Her costume is a ludicrous tight lycra thing, she does every type of split known to gymnast, and the alien seems to repeatedly try to molest her with a dodgy phallic tail thing. Also, she can kick all kinds of ass, and is smart enough to work out that you kill the alien by stabbing it in the taint (hehehehehe). She’s absolutely awesome on pretty much every level, and worth the price of admission by herself. Although, there is a flip side to her presence, and that’s that for a lot of the film she seems to exist as an excuse for the male Ninjas to turn into morons and cast longing looks at her. Luckily, this subplot is completely ignored, and it seems to have been done for more of a sight gag than anything else.
When the aliens first appeared (a rather cool and gory popping up from the ground scene), I was, I have to say, a touch nonplussed. They are so obviously cheap, and so obviously a man-in-latex that they reminded me most of the monster out of Split Second. Except Alien Vs Ninja doesn’t try to hide them in darkness. However, after a while an obvious benefit to the costume became apparent: they’re very lightweight, and as such very easy for the stuntman to move in the fight scenes in. This turn of events proved to be essential, as the vast majority of the movie consists of ninjas squaring off with extraterrestrials, and at no point did the action feel clunky.
The fighting itself is, I have to say, a real fucking blast. Hijii squaring off with the pervert alien is monstrously entertaining, as is Yamata’s final battle, and the actors really seem to be enjoying themselves for the most part. The camera, praise the fucking lord, isn’t jammed up the combatant’s nose, and there’s no stupid shaking or ridiculous editing here. What we’ve got is a well choreographed, well staged and massively entertaining series of mano-e-alien sequences that, praise the fucking lord again, we can actually see! The Hijii v perv alien fight in particular has the most ambitious moves (with a clear nod to video games on more than one occasion), but as she’s limber enough to pull it off, who gives a fuck? Not me, not if it means we get to watch her doing the splits and throwing in a whole shitload of leg chokes etc.
This sounds absolutely awesome so far, doesn’t it? Well, for the most part, it is fucking awesome. However, there is one problem that the film just can’t escape from: crap comedy. The Cretin is the comic relief of the film, and mother of god is he an annoying fat fuck. As already mentioned, he’s the worst ninja in the known universe and as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike, but what compounds the sin is that when he’s on screen this seems to be the cue for a series of unfunny “jokes”. Each one of which, needless to say, is about as funny as the average Rob Schneider movie. This would be annoying enough (although his death is probably the biggest laugh of the film) were it just limited to him. However, there’s also the epic fail of gay pirate, and even Hijii has to throw a stupid face and the finger in the midst of the battle. I don’t want to sound all po-faced here, but the film is just far more enjoyable without the comic interludes.
Overall, this is a winner. Alien Vs Ninja is genuinely entertaining, and intentionally so, and in Hijii they seem to have unearthed a potential action gem. The monsters may be shoddy, and the comedy may not work, but it doesn’t matter because the violence does, and as this is basically 90 minutes of solid balls out stupid fighting, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I recommend Alien vs Ninja with some beer, because it does indeed rock, and I’m tempted to go and dig up the rest of Chiba’s oeuvre, because I bet they’re all of the same kind.
I’m certainly going to watch out for Hijii in future.
Until next time,