Ninjas vs Vampires is doing itself a disservice with that title, which conjures up inane internet message board conversations of the kind “hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if [something stupid]”.
Having seen the movie, there’s no reason at all for our heroes to be ninjas, but I suppose “A Bunch of People vs Vampires” lacks poetry. It’s closer in tone to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which gets namechecked along with a few geeky references (frak!) and some obligatory Twilight-bashing (“Vampires? Do they sparkle?”).
They know the audience they’re aiming for, and I wonder for how many the title alone would be a deterrent. Probably the same amount for whom it would be a plus.
The plot, inasmuch as there is one, is that a bunch of vampires want to kill everyone, and a small group of dorky ninjas (plus a witch and a rebel vampire) want to stop them from doing that. The audience surrogate is Aaron, who, along with his best friend Alex, gets attacked by vampires and saved by ninjas in the opening few minutes. He goes to investigate what in the hell happened, toting a video camera as a handy excuse for exposition, and shortly afterwards joins the ninja crew. Being a ninja in this universe, though, is not the result of a lifetime’s dedication to training, it’s something that can be bestowed upon you by magic. This doesn’t, of course, rule out the need for a training montage, as Aaron learns the ropes of using a pointy stick.
Meanwhile, Alex sits around under a vampire memory wipe, being useless until it’s time to get kidnapped, thus setting up the final showdown of good vs. evil in a house somewhere.
The vampires are uniformly terrible actors, and while you’re not asking for too much character depth in this kind of movie, they are purely cardboard bad guys, there because there needs to be some. Their leader wavers between deathly seriousness and goofy, cross-eyed self-awareness, and their main killing machine vampire is a cartoonish lunatic in a Pulp Fiction gimp suit.
The effects aren’t too bad for a tiny budget, and the fight scenes are full of very quick cuts which are quite well put together. The plot throws in a few attempts at weighty relationship moments that it hasn’t really earned, but also has one genuinely unexpected, engrossing plot twist.
So far, so average. But what really makes this worthwhile is Jay Saunders and Daniel Ross, as newbie ninja Aaron and off-brand-Seth-Rogan ninja Kyle.
Aaron is the audience’s entry into this movie, and is consistently hilarious as he realises what a ridiculous situation he’s gotten himself into. The IMDb tells me that this is his only acting credit, which is a damn shame, because he should be the amusing geeky guy in an ensemble TV show somewhere that’s critically acclaimed, but gets cancelled because nobody watches it.
Once Kyle comes into the picture though, Aaron weirdly becomes the straight man in the comedy duo, and doesn’t have much joking to do in the latter half of the movie. It’s a little disappointing, but luckily Kyle is hugely funny as well, and he takes over the comedy duties for the remainder. Kyle probably works so well because he’s exactly the kind of pop culture geek that is watching (and probably writing) this movie, with genuine heart and sadness in the mix too, to make the most fully-rounded character of the whole bunch.
Ninjas vs Vampires didn’t endear itself from the start, and is a bit patchy overall, but by sheer force of comedy, it overcomes.
When the ending as good as printed on the screen: EXPECT A SEQUEL, I thought, yeah, I’d probably watch that.