Believe or not, Yoshihiro Nishimura has received several nominations for “Best Asian film” and “Best Make Up” in international and Japanese film awards for “Tokyo Gore Police”. I know, most of you are probably wondering as to how and why, but buy into it or not, there is an insane amount of novelty when it comes to Japanese splatter fests. Released under the Typhoon Label, and aimed for the international low-budget gore fans, those who are familiar with “Tokyo Gore Police” and “Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl” may think that they would know what they are in for with Nishimura’s “Helldriver”….they would be both right and wrong. Yes, it captures the tempo and style of his past films, but this time, it seems like Nishimura wants to push everything to the limit and re-define “Pink” violence with this latest outing.
A meteor crashes into an area in Japan and caught in its wake are Kika (Yumiko Hara) and her homicidal mother, Rikka (Eihi Shiina, Audition). The impact has caused a deadly ash to spread all over Japan and cause the majority of its people to grow antlers and become flesh-eating zombies. Because of the outbreak the government is left with no other option than to quarantine the rest of Japan and create a walled ‘safe zone’ for the survivors of the disaster. Kika is found and given certain cybernetic enhancements so that she can combat the zombie plague along with Taku (Yurei Yanagi), No-name and Kaito (Kazuki Namioka) . But now, it seems like upon Kika’s awakening, Rikka had become the zombie queen and is hell bent to destroy the remainder of human kind...oh, Kika also has her perverse uncle to contend with.
It is easy to have fun with “Helldriver”. I mean, it is a blood-churning splatter fest that only the Japanese can ever hope to create. It is a film that is NOT to be taken seriously, and for the most part exists to display outrageous violence with an over the top style that can either make one shake their head or clap in guilty entertainment. It is a film made for the gore hound, and those who love the arterial spray would be right at home with the film. The film is crude, bombastic and definitely something that is not for everybody. Think of its as “pink violence” on steroids. It is supposed to be exaggerated and it is indeed intended to make one say "What the Eff?!".
The film starts off very differently, the opening credits actually never roll until after 39 minutes into the film. Before the film actually does begin, it may prove a little tough to follow since the film goes heavily into flashbacks to give the main character development, but once you gain a footing with its insane plot, it is easy to allow oneself to be taken in with all the gruesome effects and violence. The film offers references to “Land of the Dead”, “Blade Runner”, “Godzilla”, “Return of the Living Dead” and who knows what else. The main backbone of its story is about human reaction and understanding of human strife and suffering. There are small hints of social and political commentaries around the film as well as what it means to lose a loved one, but the direction does not dwell on them and simply allows itself to succumb to all the blood-letting and violence.
Oddball characters and bizarre villains make up the bulk of the film. I feel like I would be spoiling the film by describing them since part of its novelty is its insane shock value. But I’ll have to give you an idea of what you are in for; Multi-limbed sword-swinging zombies, giant “merged” zombies, zombie cars, a lot of use for a chainsaw, pole dancing on a zombie's neck (I know right?) geisha zombies….I mean there is a lot of crazy stuff in this film. Arterial spray is abundant in the film as well as a lot of zombie feeding buffets (sauted roaches anyone?), beheadings and some nudity (you would never guess that ex-AV-idol Honoka is in the film unless you pay close attention). Practical effects come mixed with some CGI, and the direction handles both superbly to express its morbid, goofy and dark rendering. This is Japanese B-movie making at its limits.
Now none of the film’s concepts would work if it weren’t for the female leads that really delivered the goods. It was a great move to cast Yumiko Hara as the cyber-enhanced bizarre heroine of the film. She makes the scenes look easy on the eyes, and she had that presence that make her action scenes ooze with a weird sexy appeal (kinda like seeing a woman ride a motorcycle). Kika is the kind of a pretty girl who is forced to fight as a way to find absolution for her mother’s mad and cruel deeds in the past. Eihi Shiina is the beautiful woman who first grabbed cinema lovers with Miike’s “Audition” and gave “Tokyo Gore Police” its ‘pink’ success. This time, Shiina is a manic, homicidal woman who can also look meek and alluring while being so scary insane. Shiina was able to make the dark side of her character shine through and made for a great nemesis for our heroine, Kika.
The film is pretty creative in its own way, while its creativity may be more aimed for those who just love blood and gore, ‘pink violence’ and horror fans, I have to say, “Helldriver” does everything it had intended to do. There is a ridiculous sense of comedy wrapped around the gooey, gory, bloody sequences, that gives it the outrageous charm that made films of this kind work. I mean, ‘transferable’ human hearts set its tone, so you can guess how silly the film is. It may be goofy, silly and stupid as much as it is bloody, gory and violent…forget about physics and logic and allow yourself to be engulfed in its splattery, bloody ride. Japanese "Trash" cinema at its finest. You have been warned.
Highly Recommended to Fans of Japanese “Pink Violence” and a Rental for Everybody Else. A Skipper if you hate low-budget gore films. [4- Out of 5 Stars]
Yoshihiro Nishimura returns after his Japanese cult hits "Tokyo Gore Police" and "Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl". This is not a film for everyone, but it is the type of film that would attract fans of Japanese "Pink" violence as it overloads the senses with gooey, goofy, bloody zombie fights that would either make one shake their head or clap in guilty pleasure. Not to be taken seriously and Not a film for everyone. … more
Director Yoshihiro Nishimura began working on the script to Helldriver in 2009. Nishimura took influence from George A. Romero's film Night of the Living Dead which dealt with current events. Nishimura stated that there was "quite a lot of satire and social criticism in this film...I describe what ensues after the nation splits in two, with humans controlling one half and zombies the other, and the kind of discrimination that would occur within Japan were something severe like this to happen." On May 15, 2010 Helldriver began filming in an abandoned warehouse in Choshi, Japan.Other scenes involving hordes of zombies were filmed outside Mt.Fuji.
Film Business Asia gave the film a six out of ten rating, calling it a "average-to-occasionally-inspired effort" that was not as strong as Nishimura's Tokyo Gore Police but better than Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl. The review went on to say ...