Day two of our Mayhem Halloween weekend, saw writer/director Sean Hogan present his engaging, if low-budget, supernatural thriller, The Devil’s Business, and Robin Hardy, director of the classic The Wicker Man, present his disappointing ‘spiritual follow-up’, The Wicker Tree; but I shall be reviewing one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen, Helldriver.
Once upon a time there was a young girl with a kindly father, but whose mother and uncle were serial killers. In the midst killing the daughter and trying to steal her heart (to put in her own chest cavity), the mother is hit by a meteor which in turn encases her and her daughter in an alien chrysalis and releases a cloud of ash that turns the majority of the population of Japan into zombies that sport explosive and narcotic antler-like forehead growths. Still alive, though without a heart, the government extract the girl from the chrysalis, place a big engine where her heart should be, that powers a giant samurai sword/chainsaw and let her loose on the nation of zombies to raise all hell and eventually take out the zombie queen that is her own mother… (There’s a whole bunch more to the story, but you probably wouldn’t believe me and I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun).
Fans of bizarre and cheap n’ nasty film will no doubt be familiar with the output of Troma, an American independent producer of low-grade, overly ambitious and exploitative movies that appeal to very few and largely sell due to the extra effort they put into the cover art. Like everything else that’s odd, Troma has it’s own set of dedicated followers, and if for nothing else, must be applauded for sticking to their guns all these years.
Well, as of last year with the release of Alien vs. Ninja, Troma have been outdone due to the formation of Sushi Typhoon (over in Japan), who have taken the stance of Troma, and as is the Japanese want, propelled it to the nth degree of extremes. This year alone Sushi Typhoon have produced five films, all with that Takeshi Miike spirit of ridiculous ambition even when detached from the minuscule budgets they have to work with and entirely unpredictable in their direction; and with titles like Mutant Girls Squad and Karate-Robo Zaborgar you may surmise that they are 100% ludicrous.
Helldriver may plumb depths of absurdity hitherto untouched even by the standards of Sushi Typhoon’s own output. You may find the story synopsis a little odd, but it barely scratches the surface of what you can expect within the film. We’re talking about a film in which a head zombie catches the severed limbs of soldier zombies that are being rend asunder by a young girl and her mechanical heart controlled chain-sword, who then forms the limbs into a zombie limb car, then starts a high speed pursuit with the girl in her van.
There’s technically very little that’s good or even passable about the film, the acting and digital FX are terrible, the story moves around with zero logic, it’s a structural mess (the opening credits coming a good twenty five minutes into the film), and if you cut the extended scenes of blood gushing and hero posing, the film would be at least fifteen minutes shorter.
But technical goodness is not the reason to watch a Sushi Typhoon film, and for a crazy-ballsout-get-the-lads-around-for-pizza-and-beer-night, I don’t think anything would freak them out/entertain them as much as Helldriver. It knows what it is, has fun with it but perhaps the joke runs on a little long. It’s certainly an experience I’ll give it that, but only for those who revel in oddity.
D- grade – for story telling
D grade – for acting
B grade – for horror content
A+ grade – for weirdness
Overall grade – C (for those who can cope with it, D- for everyone else)
Watch the trailer.