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Japanese production house Sushi Typhoon returns with more blood soaked insanity in “Helldriver”, directed by “Tokyo Gore Police” and “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” helmer Yoshihiro Nishimura. Given Nishimura’s past works and his background as a special effects wizard, it should come as no surprise to learn that the film is a gibbering gore-fest which basically plays out like one crazed set piece and sees him constantly trying to one-up himself. The film reunites the director with striking “Tokyo Gore Police” actress Eihi Shiina (who made a lasting impression on audiences in Takashi Miike’s “Audition”), with Yumiko Hara in the lead and support from the likes of Yurei Yanagi (“Gothic & Lolita Psycho”), Kazuki Namioka (“Zebraman 2”) and Kentaro Kishi (“RoboGeisha”), plus the usual cameos from several of the Sushi Typhoon gang.
The film doesn’t have a plot, so much as a setup, taking place in a Japan which has been devastated by an alien zombie plague that brings the dead back to life with weird antlers sticking from their foreheads and the expected insatiable hunger for human flesh. The government takes action, sealing off the northern half of the country and containing the ghouls with a huge wall, creating the wasteland of Zombieworld. Sporting a chainsaw blade powered by an artificial heart, high school girl Kika (Yumiko Hara) emerges as the nation’s only hope, sent by the government into the badlands to end the horror by killing the zombie queen – who just happens to be her own psychotic mother Rikka (Eihi Shiina).
For fans, it should be reassuring to hear that “Helldriver” is instantly recognisable as both a Sushi Typhoon production and as a Yoshihiro Nishimura film – the trailer and amusingly belated credits sequence announce the film as “Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Helldriver”, reflecting his position as probably the most prominent figure in modern Japanese gore cinema. The film really does offer up a genuine non-stop cavalcade of carnage, with Nishimura clearly having a great time coming up with some unbelievably bizarre and grotesque creations. The amount of gore spilled and viscera hurled is simply incredible, with quite literally almost every set piece resulting in the screen being painted red. Although the film doesn’t really have a nasty or sadistic bone in its body, it very quickly takes on the feel of a kind of gorenography or blood bukkake, and it beggars belief as to just how much slaughter it manages to pack in. It’s here that the film does shine, with Nishimura being one of the very best in the business, a genuine mad genius possessed of a wonderfully gruesome imagination and sense of homicidal creativity.
The question as to how the film compares with its peers is tricky, not least since it’s one which largely defies analysis and is an experience best enjoyed with an appreciative audience and/or alcohol. Thematically, the film falls kind of in-between some of Nishimura’s prior outings, combining touches of “Tokyo Gore Police” style satire and the hyper colourful lunacy of “Vampire Girl”. If anything, it’s bloodier and sillier than both (no mean feat), though oddly enough, despite the surreal splatter and utterly excessive tangents it frequently lurches off on, at heart the film is a fairly straightforward revenge road movie and does see him progressing somewhat as a director. Although it would be going far too far to accuse the film of being grounded, this does give it a vague sense of coherence which helps it to hold the attention more than similar gore epics. The film seems to have enjoyed a reasonably high budget, at least by the standards of the genre, and the money was quite wisely piled into the special effects. Whilst these do vary from the repulsively effective to the outlandishly cheap, the sheer enthusiasm of their delivery means that the film keeps jaws firmly on the floor throughout, building to an awesome climax that even Nishimura may find it hard to top.
For fans of the form, “Helldriver” is obviously, and quite literally, a no-brainer, and another worthy entry on Yoshihiro Nishimura’s blood splattered CV. Relentlessly entertaining and overflowing with blood and over the top gore scenes, though clearly not for all tastes, it’s only real fault is that it sees the director setting himself a fierce challenge in delivering something even more excessive next time around.
Yoshihiro Nishimura (director) / Yoshihiro Nishimura, Daichi Nagisa (screenplay)