Ninja Apocalypse (2014) – In a moment of weakness I bought one of those “12 Sci-Fi Movie” bargain-bin megapacks (our local K-Mart was closing — big discounts!). This is the first movie in the collection that I attacked. So just so you know, I knew going in that it was going to be crap. The question remained, though: “What kind of crap will it be?”
The answer is, “Interesting crap,” although not because of any surface features, but what it says about how it was made. The plot, such as it is, revolves around a post-apocalyptic future in which several warring ninja clans (just go with it), most composed of an odd blend of Asian and European members, are brought together by respected Master Fumitaka (Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, the only “name” actor in the production) to an old pre-apocalyptic military bunker to discuss a peace treaty in order to defend their lands from an outside invasion. Unfortunately, Fumitaka is assassinated right in the middle of his opening address (because “name” actors are expensive), and the five-member delegation from the “Lost Clan” is falsely accused of the crime. What follows, then, is over an hour of chase/fight/chase/fight through the hundred levels, as the Lost Clan members avoid all the other ninja factions hungry for revenge, while wondering who really killed Fumitaka.
But these aren’t just ninjas, they’re anime-style ninjas, with mystic power of fire-throwing or telekinesis or invisibility, each specific to the clan. And that leads us into what I think is interesting about this movie: The cheap-but-serviceable digital effects (the director is a career digital compositor with over 60 credits), along with the cheap-but-serviceable cinematography, the respectable martial arts skills, the confined shooting location (all dark industrial hallways and stairwells), all combines to make this seem like a very well-done fan film. It seems like the kind of thing that a bunch of martial-artist friends who love anime would get together to make just for the fun of it. (A look at the cast’s filmographies shows that this was not the case; each of them has a long list of professional credits, without obvious overlap.)
So really, all of the elements which would allow a good B-movie are there, except for the script. And even that isn’t apathetically bad, like a SyFy Original; it’s only naively bad.
(Also, there are zombies. Just cuz.)
The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1958) – For being in the IDMb Bottom 100, this one goes down rather painlessly. The worst that could be said about it is that it’s dull; even at only 65 minutes, including footage from the two previous movies to which it is a sequel equaling roughly half of the running time (conveniently rendering it unnecessary to have seen those two previous movies), there are still scenes of people crossing the room… opening the door… greeting visitors with small talk… leaving the room to get the host…
The Aztec mummy is a standard-issue Egyptian mummy transplanted across the Atlantic: a man condemned condemned for love to be a guardian forever of a treasure, plus the requisite “reincarnation of the object of affection” plot. The robot, meanwhile, shows up only for the last ten minutes, and is the result of a bone-headed “evil genius” complicating his own life. (The robot — which is actually an android, being built around the reanimated head of a small-time crook — was constructed specifically to fight the mummy, and has “radium-powered” weaponry designed to vaporize anything. Seems simpler to me just to design a radium-powered raygun, and skip that whole “semi-sentient robot under remote control” complication. Maybe this is why I’m not an evil genius.)
- The proximate villain was the weakest part, and reminded me of the bad guy of Guardians of the Galaxy: A standard-issue unmotivated emo guy with crap around his eyes.
- Benedict Cumberpatch couldn’t decide just how American his American accent was supposed to be. Sometimes he sounded mid-Atlantic, like Cary Grant or Vincent Price; other times, his Rs were hard enough to be from Idaho.
- The Cloak of Levitation thought it was the flying carpet from Disney’s Aladdin with a collar. Also, during the long space-warping chase through the mirror-dimension New York, it forgot how to levitate.