Home > Film, Reviews > DVD Review: Helldriver – A J-Horror Film By Yoshihiro Nishimura

DVD Review: Helldriver – A J-Horror Film By Yoshihiro Nishimura

Warning: Review contains graphic images!

An outrageous, unshameful zombie romp!

Helldriver is a trip back into the extreme world of Yoshihiro Nishimura of Tokyo Gore Police fame and many other insanely named films. It’s the latest in a subgenre of horror flicks known as Splatter, of which the Japanese are, arguably, the forerunners of producing in high quantity – if not quality, although, the Sushi Typhoon brand in particular does them very well, which is evident in part with this film.

Japan is thrown into chaos when a mysterious gas cloud not from this world falls over the Northern provinces, turning the population into flesh-eating zombies with queen zombie Rikka (Eihi Shiina) at the helm controlling them through a kind of antler which is attached to each of their heads. The unaffected southern region is kept separated by a huge wall while the zombie-fied populace of the North is left to its own devices, running amok within a now anarchistic environment.

There are those, however, who are sympathetic to the threat and think the government should do something to help. School girl Kika (Yumiko Hara) is enlisted by the government to venture into the invested areas, equipped with a chainsaw sword power-driven by a synthetic heart, and terminate the infected, ultimately ending the plague.  She cannot do this alone, of course, and is joined on her mission by a bunch of derogatory outlaws. However, wiping out the hungry zombies is going to be no easy task. Will Kika and gang end up on the zombie a La carte menu or have the decomposing flesh people bitten off more than they can chew?

(Courtesy of Bounty Films)

Like most of Nishimura’s directorial films (he’s probably better  known for being a special effects artist on films such as Machine Girl and TOMIE Unlimited), trying to review Helldriver brings its own problems. The storyline is all over the place and the effects are not that impressive, surprisingly.  It’s a little too long and the acting leaves a lot to be desired. But to judge it on its lack of merits is to miss the point of what it’s really trying to be, an outrageous, unshameful zombie romp. And it’s here where it succeeds the most.

The ‘opening’ credits appear a full 45 minutes into the film, although, things get weird long before then. Apart from the nonsensical plot and uninspiring acting, there are so many reasons to watch a film of this type.  Among other things we can indulge in the imagination that is behind the various zombie-like creations which are a central fixture to the narrative; Helldriver really delivers on this front.

(Courtesy of Bounty Films)

One of the most outlandish scenes, which will leave you totally dumbfounded, is when a female zombie uses her baby, which is still attached to an umbilical cord, as a lasso to ensnare her victims. She’s but one crazy creature on show here. The blood is gloriously overused in true Nishimura style that we have come to know and love.

As already mentioned, the film is far too long. It’s not until the final hour that the fun really begins. Nishimura fans, however, will be more than satisfied with what he brings to the screen. For sure, the effects both real and CGI are a miss-mash but they do have their moments with a surprising element of humour. There are a number of laugh-out-loud moments – not least a clever riff on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

To conclude, through all its faults Helldriver is a ravishingly gruesome, funny and wildly creative film that will undoubtedly be enjoyed by those who know what to expect from a Nishimura gore extravaganza.  And for those of you who are less familiar with his work, you are advised to brace yourself.

(Courtesy of Bounty Films)

Special Features:

Japanese Theatrical Cut

Director’s Cut

The ‘Making of’ Featurette




Release Date: 31 October 2011

Certificate: 18

Run Time: 105 + 117 min. approx

Format:  1.78:1 OAR/ Colour

Genre: Horror/ Sci-fi

Director: Yoshihiro NISHIMURA

Year: 2011

Country:  Japan

Language: Japanese

Subtitles: English (Optional)

Review written by Dean Hilliam.

Related Posts:

Press Release:  “Helldriver” –  A Flm By Yoshihiro Nishimura

DVD Review: TOMIE Unlimited – A J-Horror Film By Noboru Iguchi

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