Samurai Princess (2009) Movie Review

More Japanese gore madness arrives from 4Digital Asia in the shapely form of “Samurai Princess”, the cover art not coincidently bearing a striking resemblance to that of its recent sister in slaughter, “Chanbara Beauty”. The film’s pedigree should certainly give fans of the form reason to be excited, with it having been directed by Kengo Kaji, the co-writer of “Tokyo Gore Police”, and featuring effects by Yoshihiro Mishimura, the director of said genre highpoint. Also likely to be of no small enticement is the presence of AV actress Aino Kishi in the lead role, with support from fellow AV star Mihiro (recently in the horror “The Cruel Restaurant”).

The film’s plot is essentially nonsense, with Aino Kishi playing neither a samurai nor a princess, but an android killing machine stitched together from the parts of eleven young girls who were raped and killed by a particularly nasty gang of miscreants. Brought back to life by a mad scientist, she sets off on the usual revenge spree, slicing and dicing her way through hordes of strangely clad enemies and bizarre villains.

Given its director and the involvement of Yoshihiro Mishimura, most viewers should know well in advance whether or not “Samurai Princess” is likely to be a film for them. For those who don’t, or for the curious, the first 5 minutes of the film will make things abundantly clear one way or the other, featuring such delightful scenes as the heroine removing a man’s brain to quite literally read his mind and her detaching her breasts to hurl at her enemies. Certainly, the film is bloody even by the standards of the genre, packing in an impressive amount of dismemberment, evisceration, mutilation and shots of characters being torn apart by freakish villains with weapons for body parts.

However, as with many of its peers, the violence is incredibly cartoonish, and hard to take seriously, and although the effects are imaginative and well-handled, they are about as convincing as those in one of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ gore opuses. Of course, this is by no means a bad thing, and the film is a great deal of fun, and although it doesn’t quite scale the giddy heights of “Tokyo Gore Police”, still the form’s best example, it displays a winning sense of demented creativity and an entertainingly grotesque predilection for the misuse of limbs and internal organs. If anything, the lack of real sadism is to the film’s benefit, making for guilt free enjoyment and a number of genuinely jaw droppingly amusing moments.

The film does suffer from many of the pitfalls common to the genre, mainly in that it looks rather amateurish and cheap. Although Kaji has obviously put some effort into the film’s mythology, its crazy half-defined future setting and the characters’ back stories, it all kind of gets lost thanks to the low budget, which aside from the effects didn’t seem cover more than people in outlandish costumes wandering around the woods. His direction is wild and unfocused rather than kinetic, though generally enthusiastic enough to inject a certain energy into the proceedings, especially during the insane fight scenes.

Unsurprisingly, the acting is mostly poor, with most of the cast attempting to get by with wide eyed stares, odd face pulling and mock hysterical laughter. Still, Aino Kishi is fine in the lead role, managing a pleasing mixture of cuteness and psychotic violence likely to endear herself to male viewers – not least since the film does feature a few flashes of female nudity, as well as a reasonably graphic and excellently gratuitous sex scene halfway through. However, to call the film erotic horror would seriously be pushing it, as it for the most part Kaji avoids the kind of perversion and twisted sex seen in some of its peers.

All of these are minor criticisms, with the gore factor and general insanity being the main draws, and for fans of the form “Samurai Princess” certainly more than delivers. Definitely one of the better and livelier examples of Japanese extreme cinema, it offers cheerfully sick entertainment for those with strong stomachs and a fondness for low budget wackiness.

Kengo Kaji (director) / Sôtarô Hayashi, Kengo Kaji (screenplay)
CAST: Yû Aiba, Takeshi Ayabe, Miki Hirase, Mitsuru Karahashi, Asuka Kataoka, Aino Kishi, Mihiro, Dai Mizuno, Mao Shiina

Buy Samurai Princess on DVD