aka Alien Vs Ninja
Director/Screenplay – Seiji Chiba, Action Directors – Yuji Shimomura & Kensuke Sonomura, Producers – Seiji Chiba & Yoshinori Chiba, Photography – Tetsuya Kudo & Ryo Uematsu, Music – Kuniyuki Morohashi, Songs – The Reboot, Visual Effects Supervisor – Tsuyoshi Kazuno, Alien Mechanical Design/Special Effects Supervisors – Yosuke Komiya & Hajime Ueno, Makeup Effects/Alien Design/Ninja Costumes – Soichi Umezawa. Production Company – North CKY/Sushi Typhoon.
Masanori Mimoto (Yamata), Mika Hijii (Rin), Donpei Tsuchihira (Nezumi), Shuji Kashiwabara (Jinnai), Yuki Ogoe (Nishi)
Feudal Japan sometime in the 18th Century. A group of ninja are despatched by their warlord to investigate a fireball that has fallen from the sky. On the way there, most of the group are slaughtered by alien creatures. Only four ninja remain – Yamata, Jinnai, the bumbling Nezumi and the female samurai Rin. Together they try to take on and deal with the alien creatures.
AVN – listed as Alien vs Ninja on its dvd cover and at the IMDB but only as the acronym AVN on the English-language subtitled credits – is a Japanese genre hybrid. It gives the initial impression of being another of Justin Timpane’s films – Ninjas vs Zombies (2008), Ninjas vs Vampires (2010) and Ninjas vs Monsters (2013). In reality, the film feels like someone was riffing on AVP: Alien vs Predator (2004) and AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007) and then had the brainwave of throwing the alien together with the mini-fad of ninja films that came out after the high-profile Ninja Assassin (2009). Director Seiji Chiba has made a number of other ninja films with Warring Nations: The Rebel Ninjas (2009), Ninja (2010), Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl (2011) and Ninja Horror (2015).
AVN has a stripped minimalism – almost all of the action takes place out of doors in a forest. There is, for example, only a single interior set anywhere throughout. This reminds somewhat of Ryuhei Kitamura’s zombies vs yakuza film Versus (2001), which similarly had its title fight take place entirely outdoors in a forest. Mostly the film exists as a series of wildly wacky martial arts moves and/or creature and splatter effects. Almost everything else outside of this has been stripped away – there is never any explanation of what the alien is or what it is doing on Earth, while the ninja characters and their background are sketched in singularly brief strokes.
The film nevertheless catches your attention from its opening scenes with the ninja fleeing from an attack – where the action comes in wonderfully stylised moves as the ninjas hop from building to building and between trees like they were insects; sequences with combatants wielding sword blades to bounce thrown swords and nunchucks off them; a full moon that seems to take up half the sky; all juxtaposed with a comically inept character bumbling about in the midst of the action and a pounding techno score laid over everything.
The film becomes even more WTF with the introduction of the alien, which even more wildly hops between trees and is then seen goring victims to the skeleton in great torrents of blood and is capable of such bizarre anatomical peculiarities as sprouting a tongue that wraps itself around and strangles a victim or holes in its head that sprout tiny foetus-like babies that force their way up victim’s noses. Later in the show, the alien demonstrates an ability to roll up into a ball and attack like a flying yoyo and the entirely WTF scene near the end where it sprouts wings from inside its body and flies off into the sky.
You suspect that director Seiji Chiba has construed the film less for the fact that it makes any sense or that the alien in devised with any coherent biological schema than for the constant bizarreness of things he can pull off. We get wild moves where one combatant is thrown up into the air and seems about to fall right down onto the long elongated horns on top of the alien’s head but manages to clap his hands together to compact the horns and support himself upright. There is a lot of fun where Seiji Chiba is constantly producing wild left field moves – the alien demonstrates an ability to reattach its severed limbs whereupon Mika Hijii severs both arms and then taunts “pick that up then”; she jumping around its midriff in an attack that is deliberately made sexually suggestive so that it looks like it is humping her.
In a bizarre sequence, all the fallen ninja are turned into zombies that stand around chanting “fuck you” and “motherfucker” (in English in an otherwise Japanese-language film), before the remaining ninja have to hold the possessed down, force their arms their throats and tear out the alien baby parasites, which look like inflatable pink rubber children’s toys. The sword battles are the constant high-energy, wildly fantastique moves that Seiji Chiba has more than ably borrowed from Hong Kong’s Wu Xia cycle. It all amounts to enjoyably silly fun.