While we’re waiting for the UK release of “Angel Of Reckoning”, we thought we’d cover one of Len Kabasinski’s earlier movies, 2011’s “Ninja: Prophecy Of Death”. If you’re at all interested in independent genre cinema, or just want more interesting stuff, you should definitely be checking Kabasinski out. Every entertainment penny that doesn’t go to “remake X” is a penny well spent, I reckon. Also, we’ll have a little interview with him soon, so look out for that.
It’s been interesting watching him evolve as a filmmaker. While I love “Swamp Zombies”, his first movie, it’s, to be polite, raw technically – he’s come on in leaps and bounds since then. It’s not always perfect (more on that later) but I think from here on out, the only thing holding him back is budget. His stories are strong, and he’s got a good sense of how to film and a desire to do something with the visuals. Imagine him with a top-level B-movie cast and a well-funded crew around him!
“Ninja” is pure grindhouse-style fun. A mafia family is butchered by a group of ninja, but rather than kill the young girl, they take her with them. That upsets the head of the crew, credited as “The Lost One” (Renee Porada), but rather than listen to her rather sensible objections, they just chop the crap out of her and leave her for dead. She’s discovered by the rest of the gang, led by Angelo (Lanny “brother of Randy Savage” Poffo) and rather than kill her for revenge, Angelo works out a plan.
He hires a couple of badass trackers – Colt (Kabasinski) and Shale (Brian Anthony, Kabasinski regular) – and they team up with The Lost One to take down the ninja sect and rescue the girl. The head of the ninja (KK Ryder), who happens to be a little older and a little less human than she appears, has other plans though, and sees something special in the girl. She’s got two ninja lieutenants – unnamed, but played by Darian Caine (a veteran of the “erotic horror” genre) and Deanna Visalle (Kabasinski’s producer at the time, and obviously a good sport), so the battle lines are drawn and we’re on for a good time.
There’s quite a bit of naked martial arts training in this, including during the opening credits, sort of a grindhouse James Bond. I would’ve assumed that martial arts in the nude would be a bit dodgy? Bits moving about, potentially getting caught on the various weapons being swung about. I appreciate this is a stupid thing to say about nude ladies in a low-budget horror movie. But the big set-piece fights are really well done – there’s a strong sense of knowing where everyone is, and who’s fighting who and why, which is a rare thing indeed for movies of this sort. My favourite bit is when Colt’s house is invaded by ninja, and rather than messing about with a sword just starts shooting at them (a nice reminder of the famous scene from “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”). And wow, are those ninjas cannon-fodder-esque! She must have hundreds of them knocking about, because our heroes go through them like knives through warm butter and there’s always plenty more.
My biggest complaint with this would be sound, which is incredibly indistinct in places, to the point quite a few lines go by unheard. Laying music on top of the poor-quality dialogue to make it even harder to hear was a strange choice – but according to IMDB, there were severe post-production delays which almost led to Kabasinski shelving the film permanently, and when you’ve got no money for reshoots or ADR, you take what you can get. It could have done with a bit of trimming in places, perhaps, as there’s at least one scene which starts with people who’d just been told “action!” but hadn’t started moving yet. And honestly, I’d have used dutch angles a little bit less, and perhaps gone easier on the super-jiggly handheld stuff – but this is small potatoes, and perhaps the headache I had yesterday made it feel worse than it was.
But there’s no sense dwelling on these sort of problems. When you watch low-budget movies, you should adjust your expectations accordingly – Michael Bay’s sound and visuals are perfect, yet his movies are dull as hell. What I really enjoyed was the acting – Anthony, Kabasinski, Caine, Ryder and Porada were all really good, and helped sell the story. And, considering his entire acting career is this and “Curse Of The Wolf”, Poffo’s totally fine too. He has a good look for a gang boss, shame he never bothered carrying on with acting.
Lots of fun, made with real passion for the genre, and absolutely worth both your time and money.
Rating: thumbs up