Friday, March 16, 2012

Film Review: Helldriver

Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura

Starring: Yumiko Hara
Eihi Shiina
Kazuki Namioka

Synopsis: A meteorite crashes into Japan releasing a toxic ash that turns the inhabitants of the Northern half of the country into bloodthirsty zombies. Some time later with the North now walled off from the rest of Japan a young woman is charged with leading a group of ragtag soldiers into the infected region to kill the 'zombie queen,' who happens to be her homicidal mother.

My Thoughts: If you have not yet been lucky enough to watch a Yoshihiro Nishimura film then I truly feel sorry for you. Seriously. Unless you've seen Helldriver, Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl or any of the other batshit crazy films he's been involved in, then you've never truly experienced just how dedicated the Japanese are to created the most bizarre and wonderfully insane films out there.

Nishimura is actually more often employed in the special effects department, and the chances are if you've seen a Japanese film where someone loses an eye, an arm, the top of their head, or grow a mutant pair of gator-jaw legs then you've seen his work. He's incredibly dedicated to his craft, and potentially has one of the most wonderfully creative minds in the business. Each of his films employs various film techniques (i.e. Claymation, CGI etc) and blend a variety of genres to create a film completely unlike anything else ever to be made. At BIFF last year Nishimura attended the screening of this film and answered all of our questions...while wearing his sumo wrestler mawashi and balancing a zombie fetus prop on his head. In cast that doesn't give you an idea of how magically insane and wonderful this film is, here's the trailer...



Like Tokyo Gore Police, Helldriver is a very humourous and campy take on horror. It definitely falls into the splatstick subgenre of horror. If you think of the bikie/cream pie fight in the original Dawn of the Dead and dial it up in intensity and campiness by about 50 you'll be coming close to what this film delivers. However, as hilarious as this film is (I'm pretty sure I grew bodybuilder abs by the end of my first viewing of this!) it also has an interesting story behind all the flashiness. After a devastating ash cloud turns the Northern inhabitants of Japan into zombie-like mutants with weird Y-shaped horns, the country is divided into two with a large, guarded wall separating the zombies from the uneffected Japanese citizens. Kika is our protagonist and after a devastating and extremely brutal attack by her mother and uncle, she is reconstructed by the government to deal with the zombie citizens and eliminate the zombie queen. The rest of the film weaves government conspiracy and corruption, with drug addiction (the horns fetch a high price on the black market for their hallucinogenic effects), family drama and trauma, love, poverty, war and authoritarian issues.

One of the real draws of this film is the creative use of zombie enemies for Kika to come up against. While the hordes may be uniform in appearance, the individual zombies that Kika battles are each unique in their construction and fighting technique. One builds a zombie car to chase her on, one uses it's zombie fetus (umbilical cord still connected) as a projectile, one is made up almost entirely by legs and wields heavy machine guns...and so on, getting bigger and better and battier. There is a videogame-esque format as Kika battles through a certain area and then versus a "boss" before moving on to the more difficult level and boss, eventuating in the climactic fight that blows all the earlier fights right out of the water. The closest Western counterpart I can think of would be Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. They both borrow aspects from video games, pop culture and push the boundaries from what people traditionally expect in a film, however Helldriver is definitely more for horror enthusiasts considering the amount of blood, gore and destruction that goes on.

This film may not be for everyone, but if you like you the creative craziness of Japanese B-grade horror complete with gore, claymation, cameos, pop-culture references and awesome chainsaw-swords then this is definitely the film for you.

4.5 out of 5 acordian playing zombies.

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