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Helldriver [UK Release] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: MPEG-2
  • Audio Codec: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: 18
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • Run Time: 105 Mins./117 Mins.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 31, 2011
  • RRP: £20.42

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005D75HJ4[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

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Overall
[Rating:2.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:2/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:2/5]

A completely absurdist B-movie from one of Japan’s oldest studios, Nikkatsu, who also produced the recently reviewed Criterion Collection releases of the 1960s’ classics Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter, Helldriver can possibly be seen as a distant relative to the Seijun Suzuki material from the studio’s long line of “B-grade” films, but certainly nowhere near their quality.

Helldriver is another entry in the zombie genre, which is overflowing with poorly written, poorly executed films. In Helldriver’s favor, director Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police; Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl) does away with most of the genre’s cliches concerning the zombies. For instance, in this film, simply being bitten by a zombie doesn’t turn you into one. Also, chopping off a zombie’s head (or shooting them in the head) doesn’t kill it.

Still, there are the requisite characteristics here that make it immediately recognizable. Helldriver’s “zombiesare created when a mysterious ash descends over Japan and infects all those that breathe it in, turning them into flesh eating monsters who turn on the “living.”

Against this typical backdrop we find the mousy, but beautiful, Kika (Yumiko Hara) who is dealing with her psychopathic aunt and uncle on the day the ash descends. Suddenly, a mysterious object falls from the sky, ripping through her aunt’s chest and tearing out her heart. But her aunt then rips out Kika’s heart and sticks it in her own chest leaving her to die.

Flash forward, and Kika has been rescued by the government with a motor strapped to her chest and a chainsaw sword as a weapon. She is recruited to take on the queen of the zombies, who happens to be her aunt, and kill her. Kika must go into the undead sector of Japan with her rag-tag team of helpers and brave the hordes of unstoppable creatures to achieve this task.

Helldriver is directed with the same insane nonsensical sort of whimsy and over-the-top gore that informed Nishimura’s other horror films. Sometimes, when Nishimura is on target, it comes across as humorous and campiness, but when he’s off, it just plain doesn’t make sense. In the case of Helldriver, it’s the latter. This film is a miss from the very beginning and no amounts of gruesome visual effects or corn syrup with red food coloring can change that.

Video Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

I was rather stunned, to say the least, to see this movie show up on Blu-ray encoded with MPEG-2. That old-school, DVD-era codec rarely shows up on Blu-ray these days and hasn’t shown up with much frequency since the first year of the format’s launch, 2006. Combine the old, bandwidth-hogging codec with the low budget production of Helldriver, and the image is very underwhelming, despite the 1080p/24 transfer to Blu-ray. It is soft, filled with video noise and flesh tones look a bit off most of the time.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The soundtrack is a big step up in quality, although some may be put off by the hyperactive aggressiveness of it all. Still, the heavy-handed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that makes major use of the surround channels for discrete sound effects and has lots of motion across the front stereo field with a very wide dynamic range and clean dialogue works well with this oddball material.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

The only real extra of substance here is the forty-three-minute making of featurette which offers some behind the scenes glimpses and interviews with the filmmakers. The disc does, however, provide both the theatrical cut and director’s cut of Helldriver.

The supplements:

  • Making Of Featurette (1080p/24; 00:43:15)
  • Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p/24)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:2.5/5]

Helldriver is an awful film. Nishimura falls back on all his tried and true devices to try and craft something campy, but in reality creates a movie that lacks any sort of sense, humor, or fright. Skip it.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005D75HJ4[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:2.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:2/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

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