Stream to Scream: “DER SAMURAI”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
There is something truly, genuinely thrilling about seeing a horror film that steps beyond the perceived boundaries of the genre. In a genre with a saturated marketplace and countless imitators of whatever is in the zeitgeist, to see something completely and utterly unique and without categorization is sadly a rarity nowadays. And to walk into such a film blind and vulnerable to anything a visionary filmmaker throws your way is even more rare, which makes DER SAMURAI a cinematic experience literally unlike any other.
Now, one of the appeals of DER SAMURAI is exactly what you do and do not know about the film, and to be honest, the dialogue very rarely follows what is happening on-screen but rather the emotional, mental and spiritual meaning of it all. But for those who stream on story alone, DER SAMURAI can best be described as a thriller that largely takes over the place of a single day. The main conflict follows Jakob, a fairly introverted and reserved police officer, and “Der Samurai,” a somewhat-feral man with an inner darkness masked by a dress, lipstick and samurai sword. As “Der Samurai” wages a one-man crusade against the town around them, Jakob follows in pursuit as he comes face to face with his own issues and insecurities.
In one sense, DER SAMURAI is almost like Bryan Fuller’s HANNIBAL if condensed and completely let off the leash. As absurd as a German film about a samurai-sword wielding man in a dress can sound, there’s some pure and raw about DER SAMURAI that just barely escapes definition, offering instead an emotional truth behind the carnage and escalating tension. Meanwhile, DER SAMURAI makes sure to deliver on its premise as well; limbs and heads do fly throughout the film, among other moments of splattery blood-letting. But DER SAMURAI always seems to be playing a hand of a different game entirely, and as a result, creates something really beautiful and captivating in a way genre films rarely are.
The sophomore feature from writer/director Till Kleinert, there’s also something inherently dangerous about DER SAMURAI as well, offering a depiction of violent seduction that is often attempted yet rarely executed as skillfully. Kleinert, luckily, has a fantastic crew behind him to help perfect his vision, especially considering the impressive combined efforts of composer Conrad Oleak and cinematographer Martin Hanslmyr. But Kleinert’s ace-up-the-sleeve comes in the form of RISE FX, Thomas Wegner and Felix von Seefranz, whose VFX, pyrotechnics and SFX respectively elevate Kleinert’s vision from bloody exploitation to surrealist, poetic art.
DER SAMURAI also works as well as it does thanks to the performances at hand as well, including a scene-stealing (and if the world was a fair place, star-making) performance from Pit Bukowski as the titular character. Bukowski is phenomenal as an almost otherworldly antagonist, balancing a feral tenacity and philosophical caution in his physicality and delivery. Meanwhile, Michel Diercks is incredible as Jakob, undergoing an on-screen transformation in emotion and stature that breathtaking to behold.
Overall, DER SAMURAI is something incredibly different and original; the kind of horror film that is needed once in a blue moon to shake up what can be expected from the genre. While DER SAMURAI sadly is not the kind of film that trades in recognition and awards, DER SAMURAI is too bold and brazen to be anything less than a cult classic, and one that will resonate with viewers in an immersive way that so few cult titles ever could.
DER SAMURAI is currently streaming on Shudder.