Over-the-top movies can be enjoyable vehicles to invest ninety minutes into. Movies like Planet Terror where somewhere behind the blood splatter and the lovely Rose McGowan who had a machine gun leg was an actual enjoyable story. But these movies do not just exist in America. Abroad, over in Japan, this type of film has been taken up to the Nth degree by the company Sushi Typhoon. This review covers their newest flic, Helldriver. Let’s see what we got.
A guy (played by Yukihide Benny) drives up in a bicycle wearing some black latex and goggles. No, this movie is not starting off strangely at all. He scales the wall in front of him using a grappling hook. He gets to the top and sits down to overlook the earth below. Out of his satchel, he produces a grizzled human head and throws it to the ground below him. Slowly but surely, a few zombies come out of the woodwork to enjoy a meal.
These zombies are a little peculiar in the sense that they have antlers on their heads. Apparently, this is their weak point. The guy on the wall executes that weak point (after feeding them a few more body parts) by using his grappling hook as a weapon. He will throw it down, lop off their head and then slice the antler off. The first few kills go off with no problems. However, the guy gets greedy and soon mis-fires his hook. When he tries to pull it back, he looses his footing and crashes to the ground below. More zombie food.
But as the zombies start to swarm the fallen guy, a truck shows to break up the party. Out pops this girl with a chainsaw sword, powered by an industrial sized battery over her top torso. Her name is Kika. It’s time for a flashback and origin story. Kika was just a normal girl at one point in her life. One day she walks in from her chores to see her father being eaten (yes, eaten, they started at the legs and worked up) by her crazy uncle, Yasushi (played by Kentaro Kishi).
Meanwhile, her mother, Rikka (played by Eihi Shiina) taunts the young lady and tells her that she will always be her slave. The father in one last desperate plea, gets Kika to run from the house. However, as soon as she does, the mother and uncle are after her. Eventually they catch up to her. Rikka and Kika duel for a bit until all of the sudden a meteor crashes right through the mother leaving a gaping hole. By the way, she is still alive.
Distraught and dieing, she plunges her fist into Kika and takes her heart straight out of her. Rikka places the heart inside her gaping hole and it starts to beat again. The wound cauterizes and all of the sudden we see some small starfish demon take control of the mother. (Don’t worry, I am bloody confused at this point too) A large ash cloud rises and soon populates the area. However, this is more than some ashes, it turns the people into zombies with strange antlers placed on top of their head.
The cloud dissipates after a while but leaves the north lands (now referred to as the “Darklands”) infected with people who don’t possess gasmasks into zombies. The antlers are prized by other humans for their use in hallucinogenic drugs. By removing the antler from the infected just so happens to be the only way to kill one of these zombies. Soon, a wall is erected to separate the infected from the humans. Despite some politicians’ feeble attempts at trying to establish infected rights, they are still being hunted and killed, mostly for their prized antlers.
Meanwhile, Kika’s still alive body (I have given up at this point trying to find rational explanations for anything) is found and rebuilt at some military facility. She is given an artificial heart (which looks like a giant industrial car battery) and a chainsaw sword to wield. She is then dumped at the wall with her new mission. Soon, she discovers a couple of desperados, Taku and Nanashi (no-name) (played by Yurei Yanagi and Mizuki Kusumi) that need some help. Soon, she will find herself against the Queen of the zombies, her possessed mother Rikka.
If you find yourself reading the above paragraphs and aren’t confused, outraged or at least curious, then clearly you have smoked too much weed. In that case, please tell Willie Nelson hello for me and write a follow up album to Full Moon Fever. Thanks Tom for coming. The rest of you, it only gets more bizarre and twisted from here. If you like gallons of fake blood, monsters dueling with a 4×4 truck and mutant zombie babies (with their umbilical cord still attached), you will fall in love with this movie.
As for myself, it was often a case of blood for the sake of blood. I can handle all sorts of over the top violence, but when the film was spending more time being outlandish and less time developing a story where you could cheer the heroine, there are issues. The movie comes in at almost two hours long (this is a director’s cut) and the blood splatter fighting just numbs you after a while. Does it bother me? Not really, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was pretty bored for the last half hour.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080p resolution. This is very low budget where most of the money is spent on gallons and gallons of fake blood. So, as a result there is not too much money spent on video production. A sizable amount of grain and pixilation can be found in any scene unfortunately and unfortunately thanks to the 1080p picture, some pieces of footage really show their lack of realism. It’s a mixed bag, most fans will be able to sit through it though.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD audio track (also included is 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese mix). Sound fares a little bit better than the video and from what I can tell, the Japanese is fairly clear as it rocks through the speakers. The sound is fairly loud and we even get some surrounds for the scenes that need it. It is not amazing or anything but a good blood splatter here and there do the job just fine. (But I could have done without the sizzling roaches) Subtitles are included for English.
- Automatic Trailers: Yakuza Weapon, Bikini Girls on Ice, and Shaolin.
- Helldriver Dokata 11:16: This is the first of three spin off films that Nishimura did from Helldriver. In this one, we are transported to 100 days in the future from the end of the film. We are introduced to a recovering infected (still with antler) who has regained his intelligence (well some of it) but is trying to find somebody to play with. So he finds a golf bag and starts shooting golf balls with messages. However, he soon attracts three females who don’t want to play golf.
- Catch Me If You Can 11:22 : The second film takes to right after the infection. We see a paralyzed girl who is being told by her best friend (and the best friend’s lover) that she needs to walk again or else she will be zombie food. She tries and tries, but it would appear that her legs have a mind of their own.
- Bailout! 19:11: The last spinoff (and arguably the best) takes us inside the Darklands right after the wall is built. Two men with gasmasks are traveling through the city to get to the wall when they come upon two very mysterious women living in one of the abandoned apartments. This one actually builds a story or perhaps I am just a sucker for a hot Japanese woman dancing.
- Sushi Typhoon Invades Tokyo 20:06: This featurette takes us to a Sushi Typhoon film festival where AvsN (Aliens vs Ninjas), Yakuza Weapon, Helldriver, and Deadball were being shown. They talk to many of the actors and directors as we get up close and personal with the stars that make these movies. Tip to the Sushi Typhoon staff, next time if you are getting somebody to interview the actors, make sure her English isn’t so broken that it would require subtitles of their own.
- Trailer 2:02: The original trailer to finish off the extras.
- Additional Trailers: Mutant Girls Squad, Karate-robo Zaborgar and Deadball.
- DVD: The package also includes a DVD for those who need the capability.
Quite a few times in this movie I found myself going out loud, “Oh my god, seriously?!” or laughing hysterically at the various over the top antics displayed in the film. Honestly, if you like that sort of thing there is plenty to love here. There is some decent characterization to be found but unfortunately more often than not we get blood for the sake of blood. Thankfully, the audience will tend to ignore most of these issues and just try to revel in the fun of a thousand hungry zombie heads (no body) flying through the air.
The disc package I found to be a mixed bag. The blu-ray has basically okay video & audio and is housed in an elegant slipcover & non-eco double blu-ray case. The extras are pretty good, highlighted by three interesting spin-off films that take the story only further in buffoonery and over the top action. I will go ahead and give this a recommendation, mostly for the zany action and crazy effects. It just could have been more, but at the end of the day most fans will not know the difference. Enjoy.