Brought to us by legendary effects artist Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl) and produced by the Takashi Miike-headed Sushi Typhoon, Helldriver is lusciously sanguine in every definition of the word. From its exaggerated characters to its nigh-limitless gore, this is an enjoyable, fast-paced flick and a worthy installment into the annals of splatterhouse cinema. If you savor the visually grotesque, Helldriver is a movie that will certainly get your motor running.
Very little, but there is some. Like a fine Rosé, it compliments the relentless on-screen carnage in its own modest, perkily-nippled way.
[Ode to Joy plays]
Moderate to high. It’s your standard mutant zombie fare with a good dose of Japanese wackiness, but the gore outshines the WTF in this one.
After a short, visceral intro into zombie life we meet our heroine, the lovely Kika, as she returns home from school to find her father being cannibalized alive by her murderous, megalomaniacal mother and her lecherous uncle. This Norman Rockwell scene from Hell winds up with dear ol’ dad burned to a crisp and Kika running for her life from the crazed siblings. Just as Kika’s mom (Rikka) is about to deliver the final blow, here comes the zombie space plague in the form of an alien-infested meteor. The chunk of space rock blows a hole through Rikka’s chest but it ain’t no thang … she just reaches into Kika and pulls out her heart Temple of Doom-style to replace the one she lost.
Hint: it’s not pleasant experience for her.
Both ladies end up inside cocoons and remain there for a bit while the “infected” start to wreak havoc. Walls are erected, politicians butt heads, and a force of half-moon helmeted soldiers reminiscent of Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head are brought in en force to combat the threat. Bitten or no, zombies can’t infect other people in this one and it’s never explained why they wear this getup, but hey. In a movie with savage, undead fetuses and mutant zombie cocks, it’s best not to overthink it.
Practicality matters little when you look this badass.
With Tokyo overrun by refugees, people start to hit hard times. Desperate for cash, two drug smugglers are caught trying to flee the Zed Zone with some of their “horns” – a T-shaped antennae present on every zombie that produces a high when ground up and snorted. Additionally, they sometimes explode if you shoot/smash into them. Because explosions are cool.
“Hold up. Get some chains and sunglasses on those drug guys, replace the fruity mask dudes with Navy SEALs, and somebody get me Megan Fox on the phone.”
Meanwhile, Kika recovers in a hospital, heartless but still alive. Experimented on by a shadowy group, she emerges later like a bargain-bin Iron Man, the sputtering engine in her chest both keeping her alive and powering her kickass chainsaw sword. She rescues the drug smugglers and they become a team: No-name, the orphaned, be-feathered mute boy with a tortured past, Taku, the no-bullshit, badass-with-a-heart-of-gold de facto leader of the group, and our girl Kika, the sword-weilding badass babe with a thirst for vengeance.
Add in a couple of mages and an escaped, experimental animal-of-human-intelligence and we’ve got ourselves a party.
Eventually things begin to go south as the Pyramid Heads and the gangsters all turn on our heroes at once. Captured by the police, they’re given the option to face trial or head into the Zed Zone to take down the Queen Zombie, none other than Rikka herself.
Sure everyone knows the life of a single mom is hard, but no one ever opens up a conversation about the alien slug-induced mind control. Privileges, people.
Loading up in Taku’s van, the trio and a couple of the gangsters (aka red shirts) head in to do undead battle. Now the key thing about the zombies in this film is that they don’t follow the typical conventions. Instead of destroying the brain you have to target the antennae, which means that severed zombie parts continue their forward attack. Almost immediately the team is attacked by an onslaught of flying, gnashing zombie heads until they are rescued by chiseled ex-cop-turned-renegade-cowboy Kaito, who’s dead wife and child means he’s got nothing left to lose. As the titular Helldriver, Kaito and his wicked death-car put their goal of roaming the land in search of vengeance on hold for now, in order to team up with our intrepid heroes.
Kaito leads them to the Zombie Bar, and nice little establishment where a zed can kick back with some brains, check out some hot zombie ass, and maybe snack on a tit or two. They move in, attempting to rescue No-name’s long-lost sister Maya, who is now the prisoner of Yasushi, Kika’s pervy uncle. The battle splits up between Yasushi and several horrific undead mutant monsters in a gorgeous display of violence and hilarity.
Here’s a sample scene: where Kika gets flicked off by a multi-appendaged, silverware-toting vagina.
In the end the zombies break through the defenses and begin swarming the non-infected areas, the Prime Minister (dressed as Hitler because hey why the fuck not) drops some bombs, and our heroes gear up for the final battle. It of course predictably comes down to a fight between mother and daughter, but not before mother makes her entrance riding a zombie-fused giant that would make Clive Barker proud.
Japanese filmmaking Rule 323: end battle must contain giant monsters
Helldriver is a perfect example of why Nishimura is so much more than just an effects artist. The movie is great on all fronts – it’s funny, the characters are delightfully over-the-top, and the action never lets up. There is nothing at all dull about this movie; despite some social commentary on Japanese politics and the occasional aimless bit character (the priest, for instance), the movie does well to incorporate these things into the action. Whereas some of these films attempt at some sort of a message or screech to a halt in order to deliver some half-assed backstory for the players involved, this movie never masquerades as anything but gratuitous, blood-soaked fun. Each character’s bio amounts to nothing more than a few lines of dialogue a la “My dad was eaten by a zombie. Let’s go kill shit.” Adding depth to the plot is great, but not when it stalls out the movie for a long-winded info dump. This flick is refreshingly free of that and after a two-hour running time, by the end I was still thirsty for more.
“My thirst can only be slaked by … more vengeance.”
Helldriver shares a few similarities with TGP, such as mutant zombies, sword-weilding ladies and Tetsuo–inspired mechanical body horror. What stands out about this one is style. The outfits, the vehicles, the dynamic poses — these elements give it a very comic book kind of feel. Everything from the unending arterial sprays to the guitar-heavy soundtrack is bold, badass and in-your-face. This is pure, unapologetic escapism; ridiculous fun that will leave gorehounds glutted with a feast of onscreen carnage.
Score: 9/10, a must-see splatter fans
IMDB for this hemophiliac’s nightmare
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Categories: asian horror