Judge David Johnson loves Japan. Loves it!
Our review of Helldriver (Region 2), published November 22nd, 2011, is also available.
"We are all alive, ha! Zombie Car, attack!"
My tenure at Verdict has been marked with some pretty screwed up viewing engagements: erotic lumberjacks, a dwarf who runs a white slavery ring with his mother, a guy named Bruce Le defeating a bull with kung fu. Nothing, however, has come close to the relentless, brain-smashing lunacy that is Helldriver.
Facts of the Case
Japan has been consumed with a strange mist, which has turned normal citizens into blood-thirsty, flesh-eating zombies. Desperate to guard against the hordes, half of Japan has taken refuge behind a giant wall, lorded over by a vaguely totalitarian government. To bring the fight to the zombies, the government dispatches Kika (Yumiko Hara), a skilled assassin who wields a chainsaw sword. What they find outside of the wall is a bunch of stuff lifted directly from John Wayne Gacy's id.
I was born in Japan. My parents did some teaching overseas for four years and I arrived on the scene halfway through their tenure. We left when I was two and often I wonder just how different my life would have been if we stuck around. My basketball career may have seen some moderate success. I would have developed a profound addiction to beef. And perhaps I would have been exposed to whatever toxin found in the air or water that leads to the creation of something like Helldriver and, driven completely insane, gone to live in the foothills, drooling on myself and throwing sharp objects at squirrels.
Writer/director Yoshihiro Nishimura has tapped into the deep recesses of his lizard brain to draw out 116 minutes of the most bizarre, messed up stuff I've ever born witness to in my movie-viewing life. (I should note right away that this isn't bizarre, messed up stuff in a malicious way; it didn't eat at my soul like, say, Entrails of a Virgin or haunt my dreams like Executive Koala.)
Helldriver is one long string of WTF happenings, an experience that builds crazy set-piece upon crazy set-piece, culminating in a hugely overblown finale featuring a 747 made up entirely of zombies. The journey from the main menu to that point is stocked with moments like these:
Our heroes are chased by a zombie with a swastika tattoo on his forehead driving a car made of zombie parts.
A female zombie's primary weapon of attack is co-joined newborn baby, which she rifles at her foes using the umbilical cord.
Three words: pickup truck kung-fu.
The film opens with Kika battling a zombie with an extended neck, which she then utilizes as a stripper pole while spinning around and murdering zombies.
At a zombie rave a hapless woman has her nipples bitten off, from which pressurized arterial blood (are their arteries in breasts?!) spews in geysers
A centerpiece action scene involves Kika and her comrades squaring off with a woman who has arms growing out of all her joints. My feeble wordsmithing can not do this justice.
How insane is Helldriver? The opening titles don't kick in until the 48-minute mark. I think Nishimura was so caught up on blowing out scene after scene of demented mayhem he forgot about the credits.
The Blu-ray gives you the premium way to indulge in Nishimura's psychosis, serving up a solid 1.78:1/1080p widescreen transfer. The visual and practical effects are entry-level, so the enhanced resolution does them no favors, but what you lose in believability you more than make up for in increased ability to decipher the on-screen hullabaloo. Also, I generally despise the 3D craze, but if any movie could have maximized the idea of crap flying out of the screen into your face, it's this one. Maybe in Helldriver 2? The rest of the stats: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Japanese), a director's introduction where he encourages you to watch the movie plastered, three spin-off short films of middling quality and a featurette about the Tokyo premiere.
Don't bank on plot, character development or, really, any semblance of rational thought. All Helldriver wants to do is bombard your senses with liquid crazy. Judged by that standard, it's the most successful release of the last fifty years.
Not Guilty. Though that might be just because my brain is currently leaking
into my nasal passage.
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