Helldriver Blu-ray Review
Written by TGM
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura
Written by Yoshihiro Nishimura & Daichi Nagisa
2010, Region A/1 (NTSC), 117 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on November 11th, 2011
Yumiko Hara as Kika
Eihi Shiina as Rikka
Kazuki Namioka as Kaito
Yûrei Yanagi as Taku
It’s tough to completely rip apart a film that starts off with a disclaimer from the writer/director that the best way to watch his movie is while shit-faced. It’s a nice touch, but one that unfortunately serves as an accurate public service announcement.
Stop me if you’ve heard this tired story before: a meteor crashes to Earth, releasing some sort of noxious substance that turns people into flesh-eating zombies. Years later, the infected part of Japan has been walled off from the rest of the country. Now, for some inexplicable reason, there exists a debate amongst heads of the Japanese government as to what to do with these feral, mindless creatures. Some want to eradicate the threat while others seem content to grant them human rights status. Evidently the director, somewhere underneath the piles of severed rubber limbs and rivers of fake blood, attempts to take a page from the George Romero playbook by espousing some sort of hackneyed social commentary about internal discrimination in Japan. Is that really a big problem in Japan? As an ignorant egocentric American, I honestly have no idea. Regardless, this debate simply makes zero sense within the context of Helldriver. I wouldn’t live next door to a family of rabid wolverines for thirty seconds without caving their heads in with a shovel, let alone creatures that are faster, stronger, and much more lethal. Here’s some free advice: once grandma’s eyes glaze over white, her skin turns purple, and she tries to eat your spleen, she’s gone brother. She’s gone.
My biggest problem with Helldriver is how absolutely ridiculous the zombies look. The overindulgent white and blue kabuki makeup aside, for some reason an artistic choice was made to glue what appears to be a yellow divining rod onto the foreheads of each zombie, making them all look like some deranged 3rd grade production of A Bugs Life. They aren’t scary, they’re ridiculous, and are far more likely to kill you by nonstop laughter than with their gnashing incisors. If the plot is absurd, the acting farcical, and the splatterhouse effects over-the-top, clunky, and at times juvenile, at least keep one aspect of the production grounded by making some vicious looking villains.
Another letdown is that the fight sequences in Helldriver have the unfortunate look and feel of an elaborate cosplay tournament held at your local state park. Half way through each battle I expected for there to be a break in the action so that each side could go back to their mom’s minivans to refresh on PB&J sandwiches (minus the crusts of course), snack-packs, and Mountain Dew. It also doesn’t help that the lead actress has limited charisma, and that her mission to kill off her evil mother-turned-zombie-alien-queen is a convoluted mess.
Look, I’m no prude. I’m a huge fan of carnage for carnage’s sake, but at nearly two hours in length, Helldriver is way too long, too bloated, and downright too strange for its own good. No amount of severed limbs, gravity defying decapitations, bisected torsos, and geysers of bukkake mimicking arterial spray will make up for a paper thin plot, cornball acting, and antagonists about as scary as your great Aunt Mildred.
Video and Audio:
The high-definition format enhances all of the weaknesses in the digital source print. 1080p is simply not a friend to Helldriver, so leave this one off your list of demo discs you use to justify that expensive high-def setup. The 5.1 audio, on the other hand, is quite good, with plenty to engage your surround speakers and your subwoofer.
For the extras, there’s the usual set of interviews and trailers and a rather unique set of shorts from three different filmmakers all set within the Helldriver universe. These films are more hit than miss, but all are admirable endeavors nonetheless.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*