Nerdstafari Does Helldriver

By Max & Ben

 

Released in 2010, Helldriver is a zombie splatter film directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura. Known for his previous gore-fest, Tokyo Gore Police, Nishimura once again delivers a nearly non-stop deluge of guts and viscera. Kika is a miserable young girl. She and her invalid father are abused by her psychotic mother and uncle. With the pain at home, nothing could be a worse for poor Kika. Then a rogue meteorite heads on a collision course with Earth, bringing with it a zombie plague that takes Kika’s world and turns it into an undead infested Hell. Chainsaw swords, mutant super-villains, and a whole bouquet of zombie penises…Helldriver has it all. Follow our intrepid Nerdstafari boys as they walk the fine line between gore-hound love and psychiatric hospitalization as they review Helldriver.

 

Ben: Wow…what can be said about Helldriver…

Max: What can’t be said about Helldriver!? Japanese movies are CRAZY! I mean, ten times the amount of blood then a human body can produce shooting out, random mutated body parts, and cybernetics. I can’t say movies of Helldriver’s caliber don’t appeal to me, frankly they call to me. I love everything about it, the insanity, the gore, it’s a wet dream form a geek like me.

Ben: I’ll agree with you on the point of the absolute insanity of Japanese horror films. Admittedly I do enjoy Helldriver, but when it comes to this type of movie I have to take it in doses. Too much of it at once and I’m liable to get a migraine.  Not that it isn’t entertaining, far from it. It’s just that this kind of bat-shit crazy movie making is a bit overwhelming at times. You can only see so many arterial explosions before you start to feel woozy yourself. That being said, Sushi Typhoon has quite the pedigree of making the most outlandish, balls to the wall gonzo horror movies. You can’t hate them for that, that’s for damn sure.

Max: It’s a much better way to kill some brain cells than drugs. We’ve had the pleasure of watching much of Sushi Typhoon’s filmography and I’d say Helldriver is the crème de le crème. There isn’t much to the movie especially when it comes to the story, but I always think that when a movie like this is made the story is secondary and if the creative team spends too much time on the story it detracts from what is ultimately the core purpose of a film like this one. For me it’s all about visuals and personally Helldriver delivers exactly what it promises.

Ben: There’s no denying that Helldriver is a visual splendor. At least it is if you are into the type of film that showcases bizarre scenes like zombie spine pole dancing, sword fighting Toyota pickups, and hot rods made of body parts. When it comes to horror gore, this film has some of the craziest and surprisingly well done prosthetics and props ever seen on celluloid. Yes it is over the top, but when you can think of and then produce the creatures and settings as in this film, you get props for your efforts. My personal favorite has to be the Toyota vs. Zombie sword fight. Who the hell thinks of that?

Max: I admire the creativity of Japanese cinema, especially the slightly more bizarre fare that is produced. There is a unique flavor within the industry coming out of that small island and I wish Hollywood was brave enough to put out similar films. I don’t think the Japanese creators have a special weirdness that others don’t. I honestly think that the film executives here in the states are unsure of whether films of Helldriver’s quality would be profitable. I know that the film isn’t for everyone; I might think it should be, but…

Ben: Now, now, Max. Although everyone would benefit from their share of watching some hardcore bloodletting, let’s stay on topic. I’d have to agree with you on the Hollywood execs’ opinions. This movie is a niche film and that translates to shaky potential for profit. You have to hand it to the Japanese directors, although a bombastic display of gore and blood, that group of young film makers has an eye for perfectly framed shots, unique cinematography, and syncing what would normally be out of place soundtracks. It’s a type of creative direction that is unsurprisingly rare in the Western film scene. You can’t help but be impressed by their ability to film a scene.

Max: Helldriver does have a lot of scenes that I’ll deem the classic action shot, that scene where one could take a frame and make it a poster to show off what the movie has to offer. The movie isn’t perfect. The first part of the movie is broken up with a section of scenes depicting what happened from the initial outbreak to when the story kicks off. I feel this section is a bit clumsy and breaks the movie up a little too much for my taste. Other than that I feel the film is smooth and cut fairly well.

Ben: That exposition heavy sequence does take away from the rest of the film. The fact that it is such a long stretch from beginning to end hurts it as well. It would be different if there was just a small snippet to inform the audience of any pertinent information, but with a sequence that stretches past a 10 minute mark, you can’t help but be taken out of the zone. Thankfully, once that bit of down time is over, we get thrown right into the meat of the film, literally. From there on, this film just gets odder and odder. That’s a good thing, mind you. Even though the version we watched was subtitled the emotion of the actors lends itself well to the bizarre action on screen. I’m not much for the main actress, but Yumiko Hara’s ability to portray the young heroine is impressive. You can feel the pain and anger in her voice and you can see it on her face during the intense scenes. Also I really enjoyed Kazuki Namioka as the sharpshooting “cowboy” Kaito. There is something magical about a Japanese cowboy with pinpoint accuracy shooting a shotgun. Not to mention, he owns the aforementioned Toyota.

Max: When it comes to foreign films I prefer to watch them subtitled and I feel that in reviewing a film a dubbed film detracts from the overall ability to effectively analyze actors. Really, with a dubbed film the voice acting has to be taken into consideration and an understanding that the filmmakers are not necessarily responsible for the voice acting. The acting is well done, taking into consideration that for most of the movie there is no dialogue and what dialogue there is, besides the above mentioned exposition, is sparse. In my opinion it’s more difficult to play a character without dialogue than with. The stand out for me has to be the character No Name portrayed by Mizuki Kusumi. She shows the most emotion within the movie and has the least amount of dialogue proportional to screen time, and her weapon is sweet.

Ben: Gotta love a saw blade that folds like a fan. I have to say, the No Name character is an interesting one. Few and far between, the character’s shots are nonetheless enjoyable and even beyond the lead actress; Kusumi can portray anguish in a tangible way. The real stars are the props, though. All of the different “zombie elites” as I refer to them are unique in their mannerisms and abilities. Not to mention the costume design is absolutely brilliant. From the Prime Minister’s Hitler-stache to the spec-ops guard’s chainsaw lined crescent moon helmets, the costume department outdid themselves. Though I personally enjoyed Nishimura’s Tokyo Gore Police a bit better, Helldriver holds the significant title of perhaps being even more bizarre and taking itself much less seriously. I like when a film knows it’s out there and still has fun with it.

Max: It is one of those films that is all about the effects, costumes, and props. From the simple, Taku’s pants, which I would love to own, to the more extreme with the zombie car. I love this film for the visuals alone and the fact that it isn’t bogged down by an unnecessarily complicated storyline and long bouts of dialogue adds to the greatness. Having not seen Tokyo Gore Police I can’t compare the two but I’m sure I will enjoy it equally if Nishimura was as effective with it as Helldriver. For fans of the strange this is must see.

 

Verdict:

 

Scoring Grid Helldriver - 3.21.13

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