I’m sitting here trying to think just exactly how I should start this review. It’s not often that a film leaves you so utterly at a loss for words, but here goes…
Kika (Yumiko Hara) is having a majorly crappy life. Her mother and uncle are both so far beyond criminally, incestuously and cannibalistically insane that even the bravest psychiatrist wouldn’t touch either one of them with a ten-foot pole. She was raised by her father, who’s in a wheelchair, parylized from the waist down. Well one day. Kika comes home from school and finds that her mother and uncle have cut off her fathers legs below the knees and left him sitting up against the wall so he could watch them eating the flesh from them. Everything goes nuts at that point, resulting in two things happening. After a long chase outside in which Kika’s uncle is throwing knives at her like Elmer Fudd shoots countless numbers of bullets at Bugs Bunny, he finally takes her down and she ends up with her heart ripped out. The second thing that happens is, a meteor comes down from space and blows a hole right through her mother’s chest, and then a star shaped alien wraps itself around the back of her head and envelops her in some kind of a coocoon, which also envelops Kika. When the mother finally emerges from it, she’s a zombie, and she takes Kika’s heart and sticks it into the hole in her chest and tendrils come out and attach themselves to it. Then all hell breaks loose again. A fog envelops the southern half of the country, turning everyone into zombies. The people in the north build a wall to separate themselves from the zombie hordes, and become split as to whether or not the zombies are still people or not and if they deserve rights, which causes all kinds of other problems.
Later on, Kika wakes up with an artificial heart machine attached to her chest, a chainsaw sword that’s powered by the heart, and no idea of what the hell’s going on.
Seriously, I could go on and on and on for hours about everything that happens in this movie, but…you’d just have to see it. Seriously. When you do, you’ll understand.
I’ve seen some crazy Japanese flicks in my time, but this one, from writer / director Yoshihiro Nishimura, is just bat shit crazy. Period. You watch it and you feel like you ate shrooms, washed them down with some LSD, and then watched a live action anime made by someone who ate shrooms and washed them down with LSD. Yes, it’s that crazy. You have a zombie that swings a baby zombie around by the umbilical cord and uses it as a weapon. You have her uncle (zombie) chasing the group as they try to get away in their truck, and as he does, he’s grabbing body parts and sticking them together, and then all of a sudden he’s chasing them in a hot rod made out of body parts. You have a collossal mound of zombies that forms up into a giant made up of zombies, that then grabs two missiles out of the air that were fired at it from space, and holds one in each "hand", using them to fly across Japan. You have people ripping the antennae from the zombies and using them as a drug, but the "drug" makes their heads explode. You have a zombie that formed itself out of body parts that has a couple of baby arms attached to its face, which it uses to hit people when they’re fighting up close. I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the picture.
As you would expect, there are massive blood sprays whenever anyone loses a limb…or a head, but there are also copious amounts of CGI used in this film. In fact, there’s so much CGI and visual effects in some scenes that they almost end up looking like a video game or a cartoon. Thisn’t really a bad thing, as many of the more insane scenes would be impossible to do without it, but it can on occassion have a bit of a negative effect on the story, as the story elements of the film tend to get trampled on at times by all the craziness. Then again, I don’t think story was really the number one concern with this film.
One thing I was rather disappointed with was that Kika really isn’t that awesome of a fighter. I mean she’s good, but you’d expect someone with a mechanical heart and a chainsaw sword to be far more badass than her character is in this film. She starts out the film as a victim, and there always seems to be some element of that to her character, like she’s desperate and fighting for her life rather than her owning the fight and kicking ass. The only other problem I really have with this film is that some of the scenes drag on for way too long. Other than that, there’s a whole lot of awesome to be found here.
Costuming and set design really go a long way to making this film what it is. I know it may be hard to pick up on those kinds of things amidst all the body parts and blood sprays, but there really were some great settings in this film, and the costuming, especially on the government troops, was really creative and cool. I also really liked the aspect of the idiots in society and the government fighting for zombie rights and to have them treated like normal people, while the military just wanted to eliminate them. It reminded me of the Herschel character on The Walking Dead, keeping zombies in his barn because he still considered them people. It just goes to show you, even when facing death, some people will always be idiots.
The story can be a little hard to follow at times, with all the insanity that’s going on, but for the most part it holds together fairly well. The acting is decent, and the make-up and effects are so over the top, I don’t think they can even see the top anymore. All in all, this is 116 minutes of craziness that will leave you absolutely speechless.
Helldriver has been released by Well Go USA both on DVD and in a blu-ray + DVD combo pack and contains a full 70 minutes of bonus features, including a director’s introduction, three new spin-off short films based in the Helldriver world, Sushi Typhoon Invades Tokyo, and trailers for the film.
All in all, this is a quality release that any fans of the fans of bizarre Japanese cinema will enjoy.