Sitges 09: SAMURAI PRINCESS Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
The new flesh returns in Samurai Princess - the latest directorial effort from Kengo Kaji, who co-wrote Tokyo Gore Police with effects master Yoshihiro Nishimura/  Nishimura, for his part, returns the favor by filling Samurai Princess with breast grenades, chainsaw legs fuzzy guitar swords and all manner of madness.

AV actress Aino Kishi - yes, she does get naked in the film - is the titular Samurai Princess.  Once a normal school girl in a weird, alternate Japan populated by freakish mutants and android creations she has become a powerful killing machine bent on revenge.  You see, a gang of rapists happened upon her and her school friends on a trip to the woods, raping and killing all but her.  She survived but just barely, and was discovered in the woods by a mad scientist who - by building her a new robot body and having a disgraced Buddhist priestess fuse her with the souls of her dead friends - has turned her into the ultimate vehicle for vengeance.  But don't go thinking he's doing this for humanitarian purposes.  No, he also has granted the gang's leaders extensive body modifications and is simply setting up an enormous battle for his own pleasure.  What he doesn't expect is that the arrival of a strange man - he'd be the guy wielding the fuzzy electric guitar / sword - give the Princess the added strength she needs to have a chance of actually succeeding in her suicide mission while also awakening feelings thought long dead within her.

The presence of Yoshihiro Nishimura as both effects man and producer on this film guarantees both blood by the gallon and wildly inventive special effects and Samurai Princess delivers on both fronts.  The mutant creations are bizarre, the effects satisfyingly squishy.  The 'new flesh' proposed in Tokyo Gore Police is in full effect here, combatants on both sides remolded and reshaped into nightmarish new forms. 

Shot on a significantly lower budget than similarly minded films like the aforementioned Tokyo Gore Police or Nishimura's frequent collaborations with Noboru Iguchi (Sukeban Boy, Machine Girl, RoboGeisha), Samurai Princess has a far more raw look to it.  It was clearly shot on video without much thought ever given to possible theatrical screenings.  There are also slightly fewer gore sequences than you might expect, though saying that any film that Nishimura had this much involvement in has less gore than normal means only that it has two or three times the blood and guts of any contemporary splatter films rather than the customary four or five time mark. 

While he may struggle some under his budget limitations, writer-director Kengo Kaji injects the story with his distinctive brand of madness - he boasts script work on Uzumaki on his resume as well as Tokyo Gore - thereby bringing a fresh voice to the family fold.  There are many, many players in the world of intentionally exploitative splatter pictures in the world today but none, for my money, hold a candle to the players in the Nishi-Eizo family and while Nishimura himself remains the top player in that particular world, with Iguchi ranking close behind him in my book, Kengo Kaji is certainly a welcome and vital addition.  May the new flesh continue to grow strong.
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