Der Samurai Blu-ray Review

A shape-shifting cross-dresser savages a German town with his samurai blade

Der Samurai is a German-language film about a cross-dressing psychopath wielding a samurai sword as he terrorizes a small town and its hapless police officer. This is the movie for you if you ever wanted to see David Lynch tackle werewolves in his surreal style. Writer and director Till Kleinert has crafted a strange blend of violence, repression, and bizarre imagery in Der Samurai. The dream-like film is out there, leaving more questions than answers in its surreal narrative.

Jakob Wolski ( Michel Diercks) is a young, uptight police officer that lives alone with his grandmother. Everyone in the town thinks of him oddly despite being a police officer. A loner by nature, Jakob has been feeding meat to a wolf on the outskirts of town. The nightmare begins for Jakob when he gets a package in the mail and receives a bizarre phone call from a mysterious person that refuses to identify themselves. Jakob takes the package to an abandoned house. There he meets a cross-dressing psychopath (Pit Bukowski) in a dress. Inside the package is an authentic samurai sword, beginning a long night of terror for Jakob’s town.

It soon becomes apparent that the crazy man isn’t entirely human and is possibly connected to Jakob’s wolf. There is a dark attraction between the two men, even as Jakob attempts to stop his reign of terror on the town. The homoerotic undertones in their conflict are undeniable. Der Samurai keeps teasing us with hints that the man is a werewolf though it doesn’t really play in the traditional norms of that monster. The film is much more concerned with Jakob’s journey and the confusion he faces in this deadly cat-and-mouse game between them.

The surreal mix of dark comedy and graphic violence occasionally works but feels scattered at times.

The carnage only escalates as Jakob proves completely ineffectual at stopping this shape-shifting madman. It leads up to a point of catharsis for the police officer, tearing down the walls he’s built up for himself. Everything else feels like a sideshow to Jakob’s connection with his own inner feelings, which boil up over the night of mayhem.

The bloody Der Samurai is an odd horror film. The surreal mix of dark comedy and graphic violence occasionally works but feels scattered at times. It works more as psychological horror than a gruesome thriller, undercutting its message with some uneasy tonal shifts. This is not a horror film for everyone. Expect the bizarre in a film that colors well outside the lines. At times offbeat and provocative, Der Samurai is for someone looking for something a little bit different.

Movie ★★☆☆☆

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The German film was made on a limited budget, a step above a student film production. Taking place almost entirely over the course of one night, the 1080P presentation on this Blu-ray has fairly limited clarity and definition. The video looks to have been made with older digital cameras, possibly a DSLR, prone to ISO and camera noise. That leads to noisy black levels, poor shadow delineation, and soft detail. There are scenes with little resolution and definition above DVD levels.

The 79-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-R. The video encode averages a respectable 24.12 Mbps figure. There aren’t a huge amount of artifacts to this transfer. Some notable banding is bad in one scene but the compression holds up for the most part. The film’s native 1.78:1 aspect ratio is retained on this BD.

Lighting conditions play a large part in how Der Samurai looks from scene to scene. The few scenes in daylight have much better definition and fine detail, though the video is still largely flat in depth and dimension. Darker shots take a severe hit in sharpness and clarity. Some black crush wipes out shadow detail, though it varies from scene to scene. This is erratic video quality typical of independent productions made on the cheap.

This is the first Blu-ray I’ve seen from niche horror distributor Artsploitation Films. Everything looks like they did their best with Der Samurai’s presentation. This film simply has a questionable Hi-Def pedigree and this is the best it could look in HD quality.

Video ★★☆☆☆

Say what you will about the video quality but Der Samurai’s audio packs a punch. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA German soundtrack is loaded with significant bass and surround activity in pleasing fidelity. Dialogue is firmly anchored to the center speaker in balance with a musical mix of sounds. For a low-budget film, the audio is very, very good. The Foley work and sound design is impressive, including concise localization and distinct sonic cues. There is a nice spread between the front channels, leaving the rear channels to help with atmosphere.

Optional English subtitles display in a creamy brown font. A 5.1 German Dolby Digital soundtrack at 640 kbps is included as well.

Audio ★★★★☆

Artsploitation Films includes a commentary from the director and a fairly interesting featurette as the main bonus features. An additional text interview with the director is printed on the reverse of the cover art, a unique way of doing things.

Audio Commentary – Director Till Kleinert and Producer Linus De Paoli converse in German-accented English during this commentary. The two men are open about their experiences making the film, this is a loose and flowing discussion. It does help explain the director’s process in how the film was shaped.

Behind the Scenes Featurette (10:35 in HD) – A rather extensive featurette breaking down three or four specific scenes in the film and how they were made. This includes storyboards to actual on-set VFX. English commentary from the director guides us through the entire piece as we go behind the scenes.

Theatrical Trailer (01:44 in HD)

The following trailers precede the main menu: The House With 100 Eyes (01:44 in HD), Memory of the Dead (01:40 in HD), The Treatment (02:16 in HD)

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.