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The Independent Critic

Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss, Ulrike Hanke-Hansch, Kaja Blachnik
Till Kleinert
NR (Equiv. to "R")
80 Mins.
Artsploitation Films

 "Der Samurai" Picked Up by Philly-based Artsploitation Films 
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This German horror film has been picked up by Philly-based indie distributor Artsploitation Films, and while it's not a flawless film one can easily understand why a distributor, especially one grounded in the indie world of horror, would want such a unique and inspired film under its banner.

Written and directed by Till Kleinert, Der Samurai starts off with such a weird vibe that I actually found myself thinking of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. In this case, the village is an isolated community where it is a nightly occurrence that a wolf is spooking the community's people by knocking over garbage cans and agitating the local household pets. A local police officer, Jakob (Michel Diercks), is tasked with staving off this unwelcome visitor and does so by hanging bags of meat from branches in the woods. We learn much about Jakob from his rather condescending and humiliating relationship with a local biker gang, a gang that taunts him as much about his masculinity as they do about his police work. However, the thrust of Der Samurai centers around Jakob's encounter in the woods after having received a package containing a samurai. The encounter is with a man wearing a dress (Pit Bukowski), a man whose relationship to Jakob is subject to much debate but whose actions come to create much of the havoc and horror that unfolds inside Kleinert's Der Samurai.

Der Samurai is not a traditional horror film - not by a long shot. It's filled with an almost fairy tale-quality that makes it seem like what you're watching is far greater than the story that's being told or the carnage that begins to unfold. It's quite clear that Kleinert has much more going on here. It's an attractive and intriguing film, if not an always entirely successful film. I have a feeling that film critics and audiences alike will debate the meaning behind Der Samurai, interpreting what the samurai actually represents rather than the story that's actually being told. Is the samurai merely some madman causing destruction throughout this small community? Does the madman represent a repressed rage inside Jakob? Does the madman offer up some dark and sinister message about Jakob's sexuality? Or, is perhaps, the madman some expression of Jakob's inner experience and truly Jakob's outward expression?

It's yours to decide.

However you interpret Der Samurai, it would be nearly impossible to not admire the world that Kleinert creates that exists somewhere between dream and fantasy. While it's actually nothing like The Village, it is far more successful at creating that film's desired sense of isolation and struggle between reality and fantasy. The film will unquestionably disappoint many gore-hounds as Kleinert creates more of an old school wrestling between anxiety and tension and fear. D.P. Martin Hanslmayr infuses the film with a sense of dread, while the film's lighting is practically an extra character for the story. Conrad Oleak's original music is inspired and haunting.

There's a wonderful, haunting yet intimate chemistry between Diercks and Bukowski, a chemistry that allows the film to go places that I'm sure were intended yet seem almost unfathomable. It's a beautiful thing to watch great chemistry unfold along with talented actors.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray by Artsploitation, the extras include a filmmaker's commentary that features Kleinert with producer Linus de Paoli, a theatrical trailer, and a behind-the-scenes featurette. The filmmaker's commentary is fairly straightforward yet interesting and it works well with the behind-the-scenes featurette.

If you're a fan of innovative and original indie horror, this production will leave you contemplating its meaning and purpose for days after you've watched it and watched it again.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic