Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 12th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2010
Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Writers: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Daichi Nagisa
Cast: Yumiko Hara, Eihi Shiina, Kazuki Namioka, Yûrei Yanagi, Minoru Torihada, Gadarukanaru Taka
BluRay released: November 22nd, 2011
Approximate running time: 116 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: When mysterious mist blankets the northern half of the country and turns anyone that comes into contact with this mist into a zombie. The government erects a way to contain the contaminated from attacking and further spreading the disease they have contracted. And while this plan proves to be successful at first, things turn for the worst when an opposing fraction of the government opposes the current administration’s stance on the contaminated.
Helldriver was co-written and directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, who other notable films as a director include Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl and Mutant Girls Squad. When he is not directing he is also known for his special effects work on such films like Suicide Club, Meatball Machine, Sukeban Boy, Exte: Hair Extensions, The Machine Girl and Cold Fish.
Narrative wise, Helldriver is Yoshihiro Nishimura’s most ambitious film to date. And while the main attraction is once again his jaw dropping gore sequences. It is refreshing to see him flesh out his characters and go once again with the one dimensional characters that have become synonymous Japanese gore film.
Structure wise, some may have trouble digesting what Helldriver is serving up. After a kinetic blood soaked opening sequence, the film takes a dramatic shift in tone as it flashes back to a time before the zombies roamed the northern half of Japan. And during these next few moments the film sets in motion who Kika the heroine of this film is and what her motivations are for doing what she does? From there the narrative shifts once again, as it leaps back to present day and the remaining main players are introduced.
First off, how many films wait until the forty eight minute mark, before unleashing their opening credits and in many ways this is very appropriate, since everything leading up to this moment almost feels like a different film. Sure there several deranged moments of bloated soaked carnage in these opening half of the film that are in line with what we have come to expect from Yoshihiro Nishimura. Most notably a scene where a meteor rips through a woman, burns out of her heart and then she rips the heart out of her daughter’s body and inserts said heart, into the hole left behind by the meteor that penetrated her.
After the belated opening credits have scrolled off the screen, the film finally hits its stride as the insanity that Yoshihiro Nishimura is most known for has now become the focal point of the film. With each new gore set piece topping the next. Some of the highlights include a scene where a zombie decapitates other zombies as though their heads were golf balls. These heads are being projected towards the vehicle carrying the heroine and her cohorts. There is a zombie baby still attached to its mother via its umbilical cord and used as a weapon. Let’s just say that there are way too many outlandish moments to catalog and to reveal any more of them, might run some of the fun of experience them for the first time.
The cast features several recognizable faces like Eihi Shiina (Audition, Tokyo Gore Police) in the role of Kika mothers, who goes onto become the queen of the growing zombie population, Yûrei Yanagi (Ringu) in the role of a former detective that looks a lot like the character that Edward James Olmos portrayed in Blade Runner and Asami (Sukeban Boy, The Machine Girl) has a brief cameo. Cast in the role of Kika is an actress named Yumiko Hara and though her film credits are limited, she more than holds her own as the protagonist of Helldriver.
Helldriver comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. This is a clean looking transfer that remains faithful to the intended look of the film. There are no problems with compression and DNR is kept in check.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Japanese. Both audio mixes sound clean, clear and balanced throughout, with the stronger of the two being the DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Japanese that offers a more dynamic sound range and does a slightly better job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a intro with director Yoshihiro Nishimura, trailers for Helldriver, Yakuza Weapon, Mutant Girls Squad, Karate-robo Zaborgar and Deadball, a featurette about the launching of the Sushi Typhoon label (20 minutes 6 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese / English with English subtitles) and three spin off short films for Helldriver, the first one titled ‘Helldriver Dokata’ (11 minutes 17 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), the second one titled ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (11 minutes 23 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and the third one titled ‘Bailout!’ (19 minutes 11 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles). The plot for ‘Helldriver Dokata’ revolves around a loner zombie that is so desperate to make friends, that he even tries to bond with the humans that are trying to exterminate him. The plot for ‘Catch Me If You Can’ centers around two sisters, one of which is confined to a wheelchair. One day a they meet a stranger, who offers to help the crippled sister to get strong enough to walk again. Unfortunately he has ulterior motives. This is the most entertaining of the three short films and easily the most bizarre of the lot, at one point a young woman’s lower half becomes unattached and roams around of its own free will. The plot for ‘Bailout!’ has a pair of scavengers, who get more then they bargained for, when they comes across two women that have been luring people into their sanctuary to help sustain their food supply. Also included with this release are trailers for film also available from Well Go USA. Overall Helldriver gets a first rate release from Well Go USA.
Note: Well Go USA are also releasing Helldriver on DVD and as a stand alone BluRay. It should also be noted that all the content present on the BluRay for this combo release, is also included on the DVD counterpart of this release.