Review by David Paul Hellings
CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
“A wolf wanders the woods on the edge of a small village on the German-Polish border. Jakob, a young police officer, is tracking him, but senses something more in the darkness. He comes across a man, or something akin to one, with a wild gaze and a wiry body. He wears a dress and swings a katana, a Japanese sword. When the stranger tries to tempt Jakob into joining his crusading against the village, the latter must give more than his all to prevent the destruction that his enigmatic admirer wreaks first among garden gnomes and guard dogs, then upon the inhabitants of the village.
In the dawn following this tar-black night nothing is as it was. And Jacob has to learn what it means to step out of line”.
German language/English subtitles.
Director/Writer/Editor: Till Kleinart.
Cast: Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss.
Jakob (nicely played by Michel Diercks) is a quiet, thoughtful young policeman who is seen as a joke by the youth of his small German village and his own boss. Jacob is searching for a supposed wolf that is becoming problematic as it leaves bags of household rubbish ripped opened, the rubbish scattered on peoples’ lawns. Jakob, a lonely young man whose parents are dead and now cares for his grandmother and makes model houses for his version of the village, thinks leaving meat in the forest will keep the wolf away from the villagers’ homes. Jakob receives a parcel from an anonymous man, the parcel supposedly not for Jakob, but for the man, himself, who claims to be with the wolf. Investigating a house in the forest, Jakob finds the man, an unsettling character (Pit Bukowski as ‘Der Samurai’ of the title, reminiscent of a young Klaus Kinski) in drag and hands him the parcel. Inside is a samurai sword. Scared, Jakob flees, retuning to find the strange man in the forest, where Jakob pursues this probable lunatic, who treats Jakob’s pursuit as a game, dragging the hapless policeman into a dark world. The madman beheads a pet dog, showing Jakob the horror he has unleashed upon the village by giving Der Samurai the sword.
What follows is a curiously effective cat and mouse as Jakob seeks to find the deranged stranger, who seems intent on bringing chaos to the village, beheading garden gnomes, knocking over rubbish bins, slicing up the clothes on washing lines, but who is he and why is he now plaguing this seemingly unimportant place? Then, the stranger involves the submissive policeman in his evening of minor destruction, as though the two men are in an unconventional union, Der Samurai calling the shots. In Jakob’s usually mundane rural existence, it’s as though this curious outsider has brought some kind of a reason to exist, able to get inside Jakob’s head and see what is lacking in the policeman’s life. Or has Der samurai come to psychologically torture Jakob for some reason?
Set over the course of one night, as the stranger’s initial acts of destruction turn to murder, Jakob must find the answers to stop the outsider who continually seems to have some kind of hold over the policeman; but what?
“Der Samurai” is a simply told story with more going on beneath the surface than at first appears. It’s an engaging and interesting film that is more thriller than horror most of the time, involving elements of fantasy and a twist of the usual werewolf story, but is well told and played. The tone of the end may be a disappointment to some. Bukowski plays it well as Der Samurai and the film is another reminder that the most interesting horror films are currently coming out of foreign markets. Slight, perhaps, and not quite delivering on the possibilities of the premise, the film could have taken more time to develop the characters of the lead and his sense of isolation. Questions are left unanswered, such as the deaths of Jakob’s parents and why he is viewed with such amusement by the rest of the youths in the village. “Der Samurai” feels like an underdeveloped idea rather than a fully realized piece of work.
Overall, an interesting enough piece that runs short at 73 minutes.
This review originally appeared on Haddonfield Horror: