November 18, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Helldriver

The horror genre is probably the most diverse genre there is. It is the metal of movies, which probably explains where there always seems to be a tie between them. Anyway, horror movies can be approached in any number of fashions, angles, styles, and budgets and it is possible to be successful at any of those levels. One of my favorites over the past bunch of years has been the splatter horror, and not just any splatter horror, Japanese splatter horror. That is, indeed, a lot of splatter horror. Have I told you I enjoy splatter horror?

The past handful of years has seen Japan churn out some wildly creative, insane, crazy, bloody splatter pictures. This would include the likes of The Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police, Meatball Machine, and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. Now we can add another one to the list, another one from writer/director Yoshihiro Nishimura, Helldriver.

This is one crazy movie with more severed limbs and blood fountains than you can shake a garden hose at. If you have never experienced a film like this before, and you like movies that take excess to the next level, you are in for a great. Now this may not be the best example of the genre and it may run a touch too long but it is never the less a fun movie that is worth spending some bloody time with.

The story is set in Japan where a mysterious ash has fallen and turned people into flesh eating zombies. To help control the spread a wall is built separating northern and southern Japan. The zombies were kept to the north. Now, with the separation in place they need to find a way to eliminate the menace.

The film does have a bit of a satirical political aura as they talk about the rights of he zombies as still living people versus being an undead menace. I understand there is probably more to this than the surface, but me being me prefers the surface. I am all for the bloody over the top action and crazy situations and don't particularly care about political undertones.

Helldriver opens with a bit of an odd scene. A man in what looks like a ninja suit climbs up the separating wall, proceeds to take body parts out of a bag and use them to lure the zombies out of hiding. He then uses a rope with a big metal hook to decapitate each one, pulling the head up to his perch. He would cut off the odd horn appendage that each zombie grows and toss the head away. We later learn that the horn can be used for illegal drug manufacturing. Anyway, there is this one zombie whose skull and spinal column has popped right through his head and has created a poll-like effect. This zombie scares the ninja suit guy from his perch onto the waiting zombies. This is where it gets weird.

A truck comes spinning through the air like a figure skater. A young woman, Kika emerges from the truck with a katana chainsaw (yes, you read that right) and promptly behinds all of the zombies. She even takes the time to do a stripper pole number on that skull zombie thing I mentioned. This is one crazy movie.

Now, there is a large chunk of the movie that deals with how the ash came to be, how Kika came to have the chainsaw blade (attached to an engine on her chest), and how they plan on stopping the zombie menace. It turns out that there is a woman, Rikka, contolling them as a zombie queen with an alien starfish thing attached to her head. Kika is sent in with a small team to stop her. Oh yes, there is also a connection between Kika and Rikka.

The movie does feel a touch long and sometimes sequences tend to drag a bit. This drag applies to both the bloody action sequences and the connective story bits. There is something about them that just seemed to go on just a little too long. As a whole, it is a lot of fun, but could have been a bit tighter if it wasn't approaching two hours.

Audio/Video. The video is presented in a ration of 1.78:1 and is a rather solid presentation. The film was shot on high definition video and, while it looks good, it lacks that film look. Also, the movie has a very artificial look, due to the plethora of CG effects and post production color work. There was no evidence of artifacts or compression issue. Detail looks quite good, especially in those zombie faces.

Audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 2.0 and DTS-HD 5.1, both original Japanese language (there are English subtitles, of course). The 5.1 track is the obviously better choice. It has nice depth and spreads across the sound field, especially during the action bits. Dialog is always clear, sound effects and music blend nicely (and are particularly active during the finale).

Extras. The Sushi Typhoon release has a few extras on it.
  • Helldriver Dokata. This short film is in the world of Helldriver and has a zombie hitting golf balls until he is discovered by a woman looking to take out some zombie trash. It is in the tradition of the main feature without the blood. It is actually pretty funny to see the zombie's reaction, he just wants to be friends.
  • Catch Me if You Can. This short follows a woman who can no longer walk, being pushed through rehab so that she will not get eaten by zombies. It is kind of silly, but really picks up when her legs go for a walk on their own and get in a fight, then the zombies come!
  • Bailout. The third and final short follows a couple of guys who are tricked by a couple of women with a secret.
  • Sushi Typhoon Invades Tokyo. This featurette is a behind the scenes look at the Sushi Typhoon launch and features interviews with some of the directors involved. I have to say that I want to see the other titles they advertise, including Alien vs. Ninja and Dead Ball
Bottomline. I may say it's too long or that it drags at times, but I still really enjoy this movie. It is crazy, over the top, nonsensical, and unlike anything you will see made domestically. Severed limbs, arterial spray, chainsaw swords, zombie horns, and more craziness await within!


Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Helldriver on Blogcritics.

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