Helldriver (2010)
By: Matt Moss on September 19, 2012  | 
DVD
Monster Pictures | Region B | 1.77:1, 1080p | Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 117 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Starring: Yumiko Hara, Eihi Shiina, Yurei Yanagi, Kazuki Namioka, Minoru Torihada
Screenplay: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Daichi Nagisa
Country: Japan
External Links
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Hemophobia is the irrational, overwhelming fear of blood. Sufferers are disturbed and repulsed by the mere thought of catching a glimpse of the sticky red stuff. So it's safe to say that Helldriver and hemophobes should not mix.

Helldriver is the story of Kika (Yumiko Hara) a young girl who has her heart ripped clean out of her chest by her demented cannibal mother (Audition's Eihi Shina). This illogical horrendousness coincides with a meteorite striking the Earth. Naturally it creates a zombie-spawning ash-storm that engulfs half of Japan, and in response the government takes the wisest and most obvious course of action. They outfit Kika with a mechanical heart and chainsaw-Katana and send her into the gut-munching hordes to kill her mother (a.k.a The Zombie Queen).

In recent times, mainstream Western horror has been dull and hemophobic-friendly. It seems to be weakly staggering in a post-Paranormal Activity daze, with studios busily pumping out an uninspired glut of "found-footage" regurgitations of The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist, quite often to the complete disinterest of horror fans.

Meanwhile, roaring out of Japan at full-throttle is a vibrant strain of hyper-adrenalised extreme cinema. Each is a bloody, bizarro blast of gushing arterial sprays and rubbery fusions of weaponry and mutated flesh. The films of the growing J-Sploitation genre are hysterical comic-book gore-athons mostly involving vengeful heroines in short-skirted school girl uniforms. Imagine the demented offspring of Shogun Assassin and Tetsuo: The Iron Man if raised in Tromaville. Then add as many crimson-spewing blood cannons as possible.

Helldriver is director Yoshihiro Nishimura's (of Tokyo Gore Police infamy) peculiar version of the zombie apocalypse comedy. Like his other films, it's a hectic hack-'n'-slash frenzy filtered through idiosyncartic Japanese culture. While most zom-com's don't stray far from the familiar splatstick of Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi, Helldriver seems possessed by its own strange rythmns and nonsensical logic. This is confirmed when the opening titles abruptly begin 48 minutes into the carnage.

The effects are gleefully cheap and defiantly absurd. In a cinema first, the zombies come complete with melon stems growing out of their heads. Yet, the flux capacitor-shaped forehead tumors somehow complement their joke-store Halloween-zombie vibe.

Minor concerns like plot, characterisation and pacing are forced aside to make way for escalating ultra-violent inventiveness. Helldriver is a cinematic sugar-rush of decapitations and dismemberment, and the fun comes from seeing how outlandish and extreme the next onslaught will be. The zenith is reached when zombies tear off a topless girl's nipples with their teeth. Your reaction to the resulting twin hose-jets of blood will likely determine your overall enjoyment of Helldriver.

However, as the Director's Cut heads towards the two hour mark, exhaustion and desensitisation are more than possible. As cool as each spurting neck-stump is, they do begin to feel awfully similar to the fifty others that preceded them. This Monster Pictures release also includes a theatrical cut that clocks in at a slightly leaner 105 minutes, but it is no less hectic.

Yet the goofy weirdness and rebellious excess of Helldriver ensures that its oddly distinctive charm is without doubt. And it's like nothing the West currently has to offer. Well, unless someone could stage a Kill Bill "House of Blue Leaves" Katana-massacre at a GWAR concert. Then we might come close.
Video
The almost psychedelic colours are vivid and crisp in this widescreen HD presentation that looks a lot sharper than you'd expect from a low budget splatter-fest. Even if most of of the colours are red.
Audio
The Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio track is awesome as expected. I found myself worried what my neighbour's would think of all the screaming Japanese girls and sqelching of spurting blood.
Extra Features
The Blu-ray comes with a great that Behind-the-scenes featurette that's inspirational to anyone who ever dreamed of making a zombie film. Director Yoshihiro's determination to make the biggest and craziest film he can with a tiny budget is infectious. It's also hugely entertainingly watching the crew cower in raincoats as the cast is hosed with litres of blood for his ridiculous gore gags.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The over-long running time and constant cartoon gore-overload mean enthusiasm levels start to drop. Its like eating ice cream for every meal. It's too much of a good thing. Then some unexpected explosion of gruesome lunacy assaults your eyes and has you reaching for the rewind button. And the zombie car made out of severed body parts has to be seen to be believed.

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