Last night I checked out the Blu-ray release party for HellDriver at The Projection Booth (FB page) in Toronto. The evening was part of a monthly series of horror movie screenings called Grinderhouse that is co-presented by The Projection Booth, grinder coffee, and The Film Reel. This was my first time at a Grinderhouse event, and I knew next to nothing about Helldriver, save that it was a movie by director Yoshihiro Nishimura, the talented director behind over-the-top bloodbaths like Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl. I hadn’t seen a Nishimura movie before Helldriver, but I had previously heard that viewers need to leave their incredulity at the door, and just enjoy the insane ride.
Trying to describe the plot of Helldriver is like trying to taste an emotion or touch a spoken word, it’s not going to happen. However, this is supposed to be a movie review, so some semblance of a plot synopsis is probably necessary. Helldriver is about a young girl named Kika (Yumiko Hara) who is killed by her mother (Eihi Shiina), only to return as a chainsaw-katana wielding killing machine powered by a lawnmower style pull-start artificial heart that also enables the chainsaw portion of her sword to buzz. These upgrades make the goal of killing her mother more than just a pipe-dream, considering that her mother is the Zombie Queen. Did I forget to mention the zombies? The backdrop to this minor mother-daughter conflict is a Japan that has been ravaged by an alien-born mist that has the quaint effect of turning humans into zombies with bizarre organic tuning fork-like protuberances sticking out of their foreheads. Kika and her small band of heroes must hack their way through zombies, catapulted zombie heads, a zombie car, a zombie jumbo jet, and the zombie queen herself. Makes sense, right?
I had a bit of trouble getting into HellDriver at first. The movie was completely ridiculous, and I was trying to follow the narrative and understand the characters. However, this all changed when the opening credits bizarrely started to roll twenty to thirty minutes into film. At this point I realized that Helldriver is all about taking the craziest thing you can possibly imagine, putting it onscreen, then trying to one-up it in the following scene. With the right attitude and a beer in your cup-holder (which is possible at The Projection Booth during some select licensed events), Helldriver is an amazing time. Blood flows like water, seemingly central characters are killed off without a second thought, and danger is around every corner. My hands down favourite part of the movie had the group of heroes fighting three simultaneous battles, one of which consisted of a zombie that had been skewered by dozens of swords (kind of a handicap I would imagine) vs. a sword fighting truck. I guarantee you’ve never seen a pick-up parry and riposte with such skill!
This is exactly the sort of movie that requires an audience in order to fully appreciate it, and The Projection Booth, grinder coffee, and The Film Reel have done an amazing job making it possible for fans to see such a strange film, and a Blu-ray release party no less. Fans even had a chance to win a few brand new Blu-ray copies of Helldriver at the screening. I’ve heard whispers that the event next month will be a holiday horror film, and with the great time that I had at Helldriver, you can bet that I will be in attendance next time!
For those interested in more films like Helldriver, check out the Sushi Typhoon website. This recently formed company is looking to push the envelope when it comes to blood and insanity. They also happen to be hugely talented filmmakers.