Samurai Princess | Varied Celluloid

Samurai Princess

Posted by Josh Samford On January - 11 - 2010
[imdb]1412334[/imdb]


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The Plot: In a strange world that looks like our past but has parts of a potential future, wandering swordsmen and samurai roam the Japanese countryside. In this world, there are your every day human beings and then there are Mecha beings. The Mecha are partially human creatures who have been biologically engineered to be fighting machines. Arms and limbs are replaced with weapons and various other additions are added to their apparently human appearance. When a young girl and her friend are viciously attacked by The Couple (two very psychotic Mechs who lead a gang of rapists), an assault that leaves one girl ripped to pieces, the survivor of the attack determines that her life should be focused on revenge. When she is found by one of these Mech engineers and a Buddhist nun, the two combine forces to make her the ultimate Mecha. The combination of eleven souls all determined to revenge their lives which were cut short. Now our young Samurai Princess sets out on a blazing path of revenge that will leave all sorts of carnage in her wake.






The Review
We cult movie fans can be a fickle bunch. Too little of a good thing and we’re disappointed, too much and we turn something we like into a joke. Less than a decade ago you couldn’t escape the radical praises of Japanese ghost flicks, with Hideo Nakata leading the pack with Dark Water and the Ringu series blasting into horror fans homes. Once the market was saturated enough though, we turned our backs on the subgenre. Generally, we had seen enough but the general quality of these movies took a nose dive as well and Hollywood started to take over and produce their own versions of the same stories. However, here we are maybe a year into this new era of Japanese gore and essentially we’re all growing tired of this new genre after only a handful of movies. The new school of Japanese Splatter (The Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police, Swim Team Vs. The Undead) is definitely a love it or hate it kind of genre in the first place. Let’s face it, none of these movies are particularly well made from any kind of storytelling point. They’re usually comprised of a few minutes worth of narrative between several gory set pieces. Samurai Princess is no different, but if you’ve been keeping up with the reviews for this one you’ll take note that it’s not really getting the most positive of reviews as of late. It’s sort of drawing the ire of those who feel this movement may have ran into a brick wall at this point. While I can certainly understand these points, I can’t say I particularly hated Samurai Princess and I can’t say I’m not looking forward to the next Machine Girl movie any less.

I’m not here to be some kind of dissenting opinion or anything like that. I won’t try and persuade anyone that Samurai Princess is actually a good movie in the conventional sense. It’s very much the type of movie that Troma has become so well known for. It’s over the top, it’s violent, it’s bizarre and it’s without any kind of logical wisdom. The cartoony gore is overly done and the bad CGI really hampers your viewing (will get to this in more detail a little later on) but I can’t sit back and say I wasn’t entertained. I really was. It’s a dumb movie, I’m not exactly clamoring for a sequel here or anything but I liked it for all of it’s craziness. Whether or not you will can probably be determined on your hype going in and just how much you enjoy low grade gory exploitation. I think the really great trailer for this released on the net, featuring a lot of the best moments found in the movie, could have had an effect on many. Going into it you might expect a lot of the over the top violence found in Tokyo Gore Police as well as maybe some of that film’s moody atmosphere and adventurous attitude. Samurai Princess though is a completely different sort of beast. It truthfully really isn’t as gory as you might come into it expecting.

The gore is there for sure. There’s a really great bit where our Princess from the title squishes the head of one of her enemies that really ranks as one of the best of it’s kind. Almost as memorable as that head explosion of the police officer in Tokyo Gore Police. There are several pretty decent gory executions along the way, but a lot of it is either CGI gore or something relatively tame like the use of severed body parts as set decoration. Essentially we have a few really spectacular bits of gory violence spread throughout ninety minutes. It’s definitely bloodier than your average horror movie, but it’s not quite what you might expect after seeing some of the previously mentioned movies. Then of course there’s the previously mentioned CGI gore present in the movie. Director Kengo Kaji (as well as Yoshihiro Nishimura, director of Tokyo Gore Police, who did the FX work here) definitely has a love for the practical gore FX, and although there was definitely some CGI use in Tokyo Gore Police, the digital stuff here takes it to new lengths for this genre. Like most, I’m a big fan of digital FX work when it’s mixed with practical effects. When you can’t tell that any computer work was actually done, that’s when you’ve really accomplished something. That’s not the case here in Samurai Princess. At all. There are some head explosions and various other bits of nastiness throughout but it comes across as being very digital and as a result very cheesy. The epic final showdown almost becomes comical by the pretty cheesy work done in the FX studio.

It’s a silly movie to be sure. In a serious movie you can’t have a guy start whaling on his electric guitar, complete with a Mech hand doing the strumming, and have it create a hurricane that transports our heroes to another place. Still, I can’t help but feel there are at least some pretty interesting ideas at work in this film , mostly thanks to Yoshihiro Nishimura and his innovative creature FX. What’s interesting about the movie isn’t just the gore, which is still it’s best asset even if its limited, I like the take on body modification that the movie has. It could be something as simple as this tight knit community of filmmakers all just like playing with new prosthetic, but there’s something to all of these movies about gonzo body modification. It’s a demented version of Shinya Tsukamoto’s mechanical fears or the many nightmares created by David Cronenberg. Granted, this is the exploitation take on those filmmakers, and I can hear the huffing and puffing of many readers out there growing angry that I could even use those awesome filmmakers in a review of Samurai Princess but I can’t totally discredit these ideas because the movie is cheesy and over the top. I still think the amazing creature work and the general sense of being carried over into another world is done well enough that it seems as if these filmmakers were actually trying.

With all of that said, sure, this is a b-movie without a doubt. If it wanted to be taken that serious, it could have focused more on the serious stuff than just making a lot of gore effects. This isn’t Blade Runner, as if it even needs stating. This is a very cheap gore flick, like something Andreas Schnaas would make only done with a little more pizazz. They do a good job of creating an alternate reality, but if you lift your head out of the haze the movie puts on you every now and then you’ll take note on just how much the movie takes place in the forest. There are also scenes that take place in what appears to be an empty parking garage as well as the actual scenes shot on sets. It’s all rather low rent to be sure and should be obvious to anyone just what’s going on with this movie. The digital video camerawork actually says more about that than anything else really could I suppose. So yeah, it definitely looks like a rather cheap movie. The acting, well, let’s just say it’s befitting of its cheapness. Although you can tell they’re all trying their best to treat the content as serious as they can, Samurai Princess isn’t the type of movie that is going to compliment any thespian.

The Conclusion
I definitely have to say that I liked Samurai Princess overall, which is more than I expected. I think I may end up being in the minority on that. Believe me, if the gore wasn’t there and it didn’t feature breasts used as powerful throwing weapons – this would be pretty bad. As it is, it’s only moderately better than average. I give it a three out of five. Although I did have some internal debates on the subject beforehand, I think that it’s certainly deserving of that three. Going with a two might be a bit overkill for a movie that derives such entertainment. I say check it out if you can. Netflix has it on their Instant Watch, but if it’s the English dubbed version I encourage you to rent it out and check out the Japanese version with English subtitles as it is way better.



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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