Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Der Samurai: The Wolf in the Woods

Could Brian De Palma still make a film like Dressed to Kill today? Maybe in Germany. You will find more than wolves terrorizing this quaint little German village. There is also a cross-dressing, samurai sword-wielding psychopath running amok in the woods. Have no fear, plenty of homophobes will get their bloody comeuppance during his violent spree, so that ought to make it okay to enjoy Till Kleinert’s Der Samurai (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and BluRay.

Jakob Wolski represents the Barney Fife tradition of nebbish provincial lawmen. None of his contemporaries respect his authority and his commander is not exactly encouraging. The crusty copper is particularly skeptical of Wolski’s plan for dealing with the wolf that has been preying on the town’s animals. Rather than killing it, Wolski wants to lead it away with butcher-fresh meat. However, he will have to back-burner the wolf when a mysterious squatter calls him out to an abandoned farm house. Somehow, the violent man bearing the vintage sword seems to know quite a bit about Wolski. He may or may not have some sort of connection to the wolf as well. Regardless, when the Samurai unleashes his fury on the town, Wolski will be hard pressed to stop him.

Frankly, it is hard to say in today’s hyper-sensitive world whether Der Samurai is politically incorrect or a sly consciousness-raiser—and why should we even care? What’s important here is the generous helpings of gore and the eerie moodiness Kleinert offers up. While it is not as deliberate an homage as It Follows, the unsettling electronic score and stifling small town setting feel like a postmodern synthesis of old school John Carpenter.

Although Der Samurai is an indie production bordering on outright DIY, it is surprisingly polished looking. Kleinert builds a strong atmosphere of mystery (albeit through devices that are never fully explained), while steadily cranking up the tension. Michel Diercks also sells the madness quite credibly, while looking so obviously repressed, his head might explode. Likewise, Pit Bukowski pretty much goes unrestrainedly nuts as the feral Samurai.

Despite getting a tad heavy handed with the sexual identity games down the stretch, Kleinert has crafted a distinctive genre picture with a strong sense of place. Even with its excesses, it is tightly paced and generally grabby. Recommended for cult cinema connoisseurs, Der Samurai is now available for home viewing on DVD and BluRay.