What makes a trash film like Samurai Cop or The Toxic Avenger a cult classic? Is it a bizarre story, incoherent characters, or acting that’s so bad it’s good? The harebrained romp Samp inadvertently answers these questions.
Our eponymous character is a hit man who has been assigned to kill a group of antique collectors, pensioners and children. As he undertakes his mission, he is looking for love in all the wrong corners of Puglia. Careening through the winding, white streets of Ostuni and Alberobello, he crosses paths with an assortment of wacky characters: a wandering Scotsman who has abandoned his homeland, a musician, nature-lovers, and masked prophets. He falls for a woman he always spots in a rocking car, making love to his rival. Samp pursues his dream girl tirelessly even though she won’t show him her full face.
The film is shot on a low-resolution digital camera, and directors Flavia Mastrella and Antonio Rezza favour irreverent, low, Dutch angles and use a letterbox framing device to give the illusion of eyelids or the camera poking through a box, filming in secret. This deliberately shoddy cinematography is accompanied by manic acting and cartoonish sound design. Whenever Samp assassinates a target, he takes out a small pipe that he holds like a pistol and his victims slump over like kids playing dead as a Yosemite Sam gun sound effect goes off.
As a character, Samp stomps emotionally around like a frantic child, killing and taking what he wants. The film opens with his mother preparing dinner for him. When he arrives, he immediately kills her and vents about the pressure she put him under as a child. In the next scene, he is found drinking a cappuccino while breastfeeding manically. His main drive seems to be wanting to replace his mother, but even that reading generously applies too much depth to this film.
Propelling itself with pantomimic acting and a nonsensical narrative, Samp seems to knock on the door of the canon of trash films. The beauty of these cult offerings lies in their purity: the filmmakers behind films we now categorise as trash cinema set off with the best of intentions. In their minds, they were trying to make the next Apocalypse Now, but ended up with incoherent, chaotic films that break so many of the unspoken rules of filmmaking (accidentally) that they appear transgressive. All of the components of a B movie classic are apparent here, but the intent is too deliberate to bring them all together in an entertaining way.
At its finest moments, Samp delivers some singularly surreal set pieces that gravitate around the same energy of Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, but its lo-fi DV cam aesthetic and repetition of visual gags quickly begin to grate on the senses. Samp has charm and offers some genuinely bizarre moments, but the end result is too superficial to construct any meaningful or memorable moments, and too conscious to attain true trash cult status.
Samp does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Samp here: