Helldriver comes from the Japanese movie company Sushi Typhoon - which, well, just click on the link to see their wares - and from the director Yoshihiro Nishimura, who directed such 'classics' as Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. I put quotes around 'classics' not to demean the films, they are a lot of fun... and especially disturbing if you haven't seen your share of Japanese exploitation films (or, in Japan, just another Friday night at the cinema).
They're crudely done but with a lot of professionalism and done super-fast as well (at a Q&A with the director - and at the end of this blog I'll put a picture from it which is AMAZING - he mentioned that he shot Gore Police and this new film two weeks each... which just makes my head hurt, I have to digress), and LOTS and LOTS of BLOOD and GORE and BODY PARTS and um GIGANTIC PENIS DEMON MONSTER THINGS! IN CAPS!
|"WHO'S LAUGHING NOW!! Uhhh, No, this hurts, this fucking HURTS!"|
Within these dimensions though, Nishimura is a wildly talented director, one who works in a low-budget horror world and just goes to town with anything that he can think of as being cartoony. And in the case of Helldriver he jumps off of a horror premise that shouldn't be too unfamiliar to horror fans (not even for 'fans' of Plan 9 From Outer Space): an alien presence comes to Earth and turns everyone into zombies. That is to say the alien presence embeds itself in the body of a woman - a real nasty bitch who treats her step-daughter Rikka (Eihi Shina of Audition fame) like crap, and in the process of becoming this Mean-Queen-Zombie she rips out Rikka's poor little heart! But as the zombie-apocalypse is taking place (with the neat twist that there's big biological antlers attached to all the zombies heads that is what needs to be cut off as opposed to just the head), Rikka gets a metal heart Iron Man style and has an ultimate task: kill that bitch and get her heart back!
There is much more, such as - and what Nishimura at the Q&A said was just a coincidence and not meant to be a comment on the Japanese earthquake that happened well after filming finished anyway - a divide in Japan between those who are infected (the millions to the north) and those not (to the south). A big divide also comes with the handful of people, starting with the Prime Minister and trickling down to others, that these zombies are just "misunderstood" and need to be treated like any other human, to which this ensues mass chaos. But then there is another point in the story, where the film takes off into its REAL craziness (and you know when it is because, and I'm not kidding, when the title card for the movie comes up - a full ONE HOUR into the running time! this got a big applause from the audience that attended like moth to the flame, but I digress).
|Don't even ask what that is around her head. maybe a Zomlusk?|
What is this craziness? Well it starts off with a sorta parody of Battle Royale as about a dozen 'candidates' including Rikka and a couple of her 'friends' she's picked up along the way, are in those chambers where if you move one inch you get poked to death, and a cute video comes on with a hyperactive Japanese girl telling everyone that they have a choice - go and fight the zombies through the haze the Zombie-Wasteland, or go free (to which anyone who presses the 'go free' button dies instantly, always the case with those chambers really).
So Rikka and a few others take the daring attempt at going through the thicket of zombies... and not just regular zombies, but zombies that fling other zombies in catapults as they drive forward in their Jeep, and zombies who are like zombie pin-cushions, and a zombie with a zombie baby attached to it that it can fling and have eat its customers, or a zombie that (which had me rolling-on-the-floor with laughter) has little tentacle hand things that flap about as the zombie its attached to controls it. Weird.
|"That horn is SO Punk rock 2011" GQ|
And completely, totally maniacal in design and execution, like Loony Tunes and any other crazy cartoon... actually MUCH crazier, thrown into this mayhem of zombies everywhere. Hell, Nishumura doesn't stop there with individual zombies (and by the way not everyone turns into one, such as one girl in the Jeep who gets attacked on all sides by zombie heads and parts of people and gets eaten down to the bone!) No, that would be too easy.
A hectic chase ensues after the Jeep faces off against the Big-Bad-Tattoo-Hair-What-the-FUCK Zombie is attacking it - this zombie being once Rikka's asshole-step-father, brilliantly played by an actor who is totally nuts (can't find his name right now but he's the one in the picture above - and it's just bananas on crack. The Zombie gets other parts of zombies and makes a gigantic zombie car to chase after the Jeep, and then other things happen, like, uh... should I spoil it? All I'll say from here is that you'll never look at a Zombie-Western the same way again. Yee-haw?
|Sadaam had nothing on this.|
This is Gonzo for people who now look at Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas or Dawn of the Dead as kid's stuff. This is so far out there in how much Nishimura and his special FX team push the creature designs and comedy that you just end up laughing at yourself for laughing so hard at this. And of course there are a few moments that had even an audience like the one at the Q&A going "ohhhh!" in disgust, but why carp? If you buy the ticket for something like Helldriver, which is created at first as an outrageous political satire (with a little bit of religion thrown in, the only scene in this Director's Cut I thought could've been trimmed), then as a splatter flick. But as a splatter flick is so takes over the stage, and even from a fine actress like Shiina who does her best to be bad-ass in poise against the other crazies she's riding with.
Helldriver does have a coherent story, at least for the most part when it's not jumping back and forth in chronology too much, and it does have a few legitimately impressive special effects, at least when it's not going so far into Shock-ville to which Nishimura does it so well. Yet it's hard not to ignore that it is probably shlock on a level that would make Lloyd Kaufman wince. By the time they get to the climax of the film, which has the Bitch-Queen-Zombie-What-Have-You with the cackling laugh and way of fucking with Rikka since, you know, she is wearing her heart more than on her sleeve, you almost might feel tired from how far things have been pushed. But the joy of it all is that it's so shamelessly entertaining, and wants to go even further after that practical show-stopper of the chase through the Zombie-Wasteland, that you either go for it all the way or you walk out after the first scene.
For me, I was laughing hysterically through most of it, smiling through the rest of it, and it's scathing assault on anything with 'taste' so to speak that is too wonderful for words.
|Nishimura and Shiina at the Q&A... and yes, that is a baby attached to his Sumo-Diaper... :)|