FEBRUARY 19, 2011
I wasn't a big fan of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, but I figured I'd give the "From the producers of Tokyo Gore Police!" genre another try with Alien Vs. Ninja. But the real reason is, it was the only new movie I skipped on the main screen at Frightfest last year, so I wanted to end 6-7 months of wondering "Should I have watched it instead of going off to drink at the Phoenix?"
Well, probably not. The Phoenix is a great bar and my new London friends are wonderful folks that I wish I could have spent MORE time with, not less. However I wouldn't have been ANGRY if I stuck around to watch the film; it's painfully slow going at first, but once the alien finally shows up around 25 minutes in, it becomes a fairly delightful and surprisingly splattery romp. And in retrospect, I would have welcomed such a film at the festival; so many of the offerings were dark/depressing tales involving rape and/or torture, the levity AvN offered would have been most welcome.
It's also a sleep-proof movie for the most part, meaning you can doze off for a while (or go make a sandwich, smoke, whatever your poison) and not really miss much while you're gone. Once everything is established, there's hardly even any real dialogue, let alone important plot points - it's just a non-stop action account of what is promised in the title. Some folks die, obviously, but otherwise there's no way to get "lost" in the movie, and if anything taking a break would be beneficial, because the movie gets fairly repetitive after awhile - one of our ninja heroes spots an alien (or is ambushed by one), and they have a fight. More often than not, the ninja wins.
There are some wrinkles to the plot in the 2nd act, such as the "possession" angle in which the aliens control some of the humans via a slimy baby alien thing rammed into their throat. But unlike say, poor Kane from the Nostromo, these folks can be saved! All that's required is someone else pulling the thing out of their throat, which is as gross/funny as it sounds. But this allows for some brief human on human fighting, giving the main aliens a break. And that's fine, because (somewhat disappointingly) all the aliens look the same. The one at the end of the film sprouts wings (paying off the fact that their heads look like pterodactyls), but otherwise they're all pretty much the same type with the same abilities.
But such is a "limitation" of putting a guy in a suit instead of rendering the alien with CGI! For whatever faults the movie may have had, I LOVED that the CGI was largely confined to stunt actions (swords and shurikens being thrown about), with the fighting usually just good ol' human being vs. another human being stuff. I don't know about you, but I find it far more satisfying and entertaining to see a guy in a suit kicking or punching a ninja than seeing some swirling mass of poorly rendered pixels flying around or shooting ANOTHER mass of poorly rendered pixels at a ninja.
And the splatter! At first I was sort of surprised at the movie's total lack of blood (during the opening ninja on ninja fight), but they more than make up for it once the alien arrives. Three "redshirt" ninjas are quickly torn apart by the thing, and then the fights contain plenty of grue, especially when a ninja dies. AvN must hold some sort of record for number of stomped on heads in a single film. Add in the bodily fluids and general ickiness involving the throat "controllers", and you have a perfectly "wet" affair.
In short, what I'm saying is, I should have skipped whatever movie played BEFORE AvN (Red Hill, which was a great western but not a horror movie anyway) and gone to the pub, gotten drunk, and went back to enjoy this nutty movie in its proper context. It's not like the DVD has a lot of excellent bonus material that I would have otherwise missed out on (I don't care how much I love a movie; I never have time to rewatch anything anymore so my DVD buying habits have been reduced to "Oh it's on sale for five dollars on Black Friday? OK."); the only extra is a fairly standard 20 minute making of that walks us through some of the more notable kills, and also has the actors talk about their characters, which is rather extraneous for this particular film. I would have preferred a music video for the awesome end credits song, which is in Japanese but the guy occasionally dips into English for the chorus.
Unlike Frankenstein Girl, which was overloaded with pointless subplots and a clunky presentation (poor editing, bad dubbing, etc), this one was pretty fun and refreshingly straight-forward. A little more variety to the proceedings (either with different types of aliens and/or some location-based fights beyond "the forest" or "the cave") wouldn't have hurt, but it held my attention and made me laugh and go "Whoa! Hahaha, YES!" every now and then. And it was only 80 minutes, which automatically made it more attractive to me. Fun stuff.
What say you?