Nihon bundan: Heru doraibā (Helldriver) Reviews
These kind of ultra-violent, chaotic Japanese movies are very tricky. When they work, they're awesome. An amusing, bemusing, exciting mishmash of craziness that gives new meaning to the word "ridiculous". But Helldriver, like so many of these gonzo films, just doesn't quite pull off what it's aiming for.
And that's certainly not for lack of trying. This tale of zombies and chainsaw swords throws everything at the viewer possible, and I have to commend the filmmakers for the sheer levels of WTF they came up with. Zombie women using zombie babies attached by zombie umbilical cords as weapon, truck versus zombie sword fights, and a zombie car are just a few of the insane ideas you'll see on display, here. I can't count the number of times I simply had to shake my head and smile at the fact that someone came up with all of this stuff. There's even a battle near the end that's eerily reminiscent of The Battle of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers, except with way fewer humans and WAY more blood. The inventiveness of Helldriver is the best thing it has going for it, by far.
But amidst all the blood fountains and giant flying zombies made out of smaller zombies, the director and writers forgot to add the entertainment. How a movie can be absolutely insane and so dull at the same time is a mystery, to me.
The plot is non-existent, even for this kind of flick. Our main character has a back-story with an evil mother and uncle that leads to the entire zombie infestation and her transformation into a half-mechanical warrior, but the scenes dealing with that are among the most boring in the entire movie. There are really no likable or interesting characters, either, which would have gone a long way towards making Helldriver easier to enjoy.
It might be worth checking out for the undeniable strangeness of it all, but I still have to say I was more disappointed than pleased with Helldriver.
An object from outer space strikes Hokkaido. This kicks up a cloud of ash which makes people fall to the ground, only to rise again in an hour as zombies.
A large wall was erected across Honshu north of Tokyo to keep the zombies out. Refugees flood Tokyo.
There's a banner: Protect the infected. Support human rights.
Unfortunately, the infected eat the uninfected, but the government does not care.
The zombies have an odd shaped horn; the only way to put a zombie down permanently in this film is to cut off this horn. Horns have psycho-active effects, so drug dealers collect them. The horns are volatile and explosive as well. This is all explained in a newscast/paid advertising TV session.
There is social dissension about the issue: the pro-zombie rights advocates versus the Japan is for the living advocates.
From the political to the gorefest: zombies with chain saws, heroes with bizarre weapons, strange eyes, spewing gore, sudden costume changes. That's in the first 30 minutes.
Kika meets Taku and No-name, the last of the members of the Kamikaze Orphanage. Taku and No-name hunt for zombie horns, and the money is getting bad.
Amazingly, there is formal public debate about whether or not to exterminate the zombies before they exterminate the living. The zombies eventually settle the debate by eating the prime minister.
The opening credits start at 49 minutes into the film. Clever.
After the credits, death row inmates are given a chance at having their sentences dropped. They are to find the woman who is the source of the zombie infestation and kill/destroy/whatever her.
Kika is the daughter of the zombie queen, so Kika might be able to help locate her. They meet a skilled hunter in zombie country who helps them evade the flying heads.
There's an effort to rescue No-name's sister Maya, who's been captured and sold at the zombie bar. Lots of fighting, lots of blood, but this is not the ultimate battleground.
How might this turn out? Will any of our heroes survive? Will they get the zombie queen? Will the help promised by the Tokyo regime actually arrive?
Cinematography: 2/10 Ugly, badly done. Poor colour, shaky camera, and so on.
Sound: 4/10 Out of sync, voice to speech. Bizarre choices for incidental music. Subtitles for the jaunty, pleasant singing would have been nice. Even more ridiculous choices of Western classical music.
Acting: 0/10 I did not recognise any acting in this one. There were many people in the film who were on camera for under 30 seconds, and had few if any lines.
Screenplay: 0/10 The timeline is dicey, the characters are not developed in a coherent way, the visuals are poor, and the effect of the thing from outer space on Kika never made sense to me. The flashbacks are not well organised. Incredibly stupid armour, incredibly stupid mustache, ridiculous amount and presentation of blood splatter, flying heads as ammunition, heads flying with no physical reason for their movement, a stolen heart used as a voodoo instrument, and some of the stupidest fights I have ever seen. These were all part of the nonsense of the screenplay. Enough continuity errors to torpedo a hundred films that had any reasonable governance.
You want chainsaws? They got chainsaws.
Anything goes, in this crazy bloody Japanese zombie (I know, I know) showcase. Thousands of gallons of blood are spilt before the opening credits (which start forty eight minutes in, but still...) and does get a bit tiresome. But in this crazyness called HELLDRIVER, there are pick-n-pull zombie parts, a baby zombie mace, zombie antenna narcotics, a samuri chainsaw sword, truck sword fighting, zombie's rights and a car and jet made of zombies! The only thing missing is the kitchen sink.