|Directed by||Yoshihiro Nishimura|
|Produced by||Yoshinori Chiba
|Written by||Yoshihiro Nishimura
|Music by||Go Nakagawa|
|Cinematography||Shu G. Momose|
|Edited by||Yoshihiro Nishimura|
Helldriver (Japanese: ヘルドライバー Hepburn: Herudoraibā?) is a 2010 Japanese splatter film directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura. It stars Yumiko Hara and Eihi Shiina, and was written by Nishimura and Daichi Nagisa.
A schoolgirl named Kika and her father are living in a condemned set of houses where they are ultimately found by her mother, Rikka, and her uncle, Yasushi, both serial killers who murder and cannibalize their victims. Once the father is burned to death, Kika attempts to escape, but is caught by the homicidal siblings. Seconds later, a meteorite seen falling from space crashes into Rikka's back, leaving a large-sized hole in her body where her heart once was, forcing her to rip out Kika's as a replacement. After the two are then left in a cocoon-like state, a large blast of black toxic ash makes it way from Rikka and begins to cover the northern half of Japan. Thirty-six hours later, the ash had dissipated, but those who have inhaled it have been turned into bloodthirsty zombies. Days later, the country is then divided into two by a large wall, keeping the zombies north while most of Japan's uninfected population remain south.
One year later, Kika's cocooned body had been found by an unknown organization and given an artificial heart unit to keep her alive. Once dropped at the wall, she is forced to defend herself against several zombies with a katana-shaped chainsaw, finding out that the best way to kill them is by severing the antler-like horn that grows out of their foreheads. At the same time, she manages to rescue a man named Taku and his mute companion, No-Name, both who collect horns off the zombies they kill to sell off to potential buyers as the horns contains an unknown substance that could be turned into an illicit drug. After having a nightmare, Kika experiences a great amount of pain from her heart inside Rikka's body, which has been freed from its cocoon-like state as well, still alive and Rikka claiming herself as a "queen" of the zombies. Sometime later, she, Taku, and No-name are arrested along with a gang they were trying to sell horns to as the contents of them produced unstable and volatile effects, making them illegal.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hatoda and his supporters are strongly defending the zombies, beveling them to be still human. However, this is met by criticism by Justice Minister Osawa and those who agree with him, declaring them to be nothing more than monsters who must be wiped out before they could overrun Japan. Once learning that Osawa was the one that saved Kika to be used as an experiment in the killing of the zombies, Hatoda decides to further strengthen his cause. At a speech near the wall where the prime minister is set to give a speech, Osawa plants a bomb on it which blows a hole open, causing several zombies to come through and attack. Before Hatoda is ripped apart by them, he screams out that the zombies are indeed no longer human. With his death, Osawa declares himself as the new prime minister.
Kika and her companions are freed from custody after agreeing to track down and capture or kill Rikka, whom the government has managed to identify as the source of the zombie outbreak and are given supplies to work with. Hours after entering the northern half of the country, the group is attacked by decapitated zombie heads used as crude bombs, but are saved by an ex-cop named Kaito. Shortly after, they enlist his help to find No-Name's sister, Maya, who had gone missing during the outbreak. The group manages to find her at a zombified bar where she is being fed on by Yasushi himself and barely saves her during a series of attacks. While escaping, the group is chased by Yasushi and the zombified bar's owner in a car fashioned out of zombie body parts. During the chase, Kika kills the owner while Taku sacrifices himself to drive both him and Yasushi in the latter's vehicle over a cliff. Having lost a lot of blood from her torture, Maya ultimately dies as a result, leaving No-Name greatly saddened.
Kika, Kaito, and No-Name eventually reach Rikka, who greets them using a giant body made out of zombies. While Rikka tortures Kika by abusing the latter's heart, No-Name fires a tracking signal onto Rikka's location, alerting Osawa to fire a series of missiles at her, two of which are captured by Rikka and used to make the giant body airborne to head in the direction of southern Japan. Kika manages to get onto the giant body before it leaves to fight Rikka, but is intercepted by Yasushi who had survived Taku's attack and fights her. While Yasushi is briefly distracted, she kicks him into one of the missiles which explodes, killing him. At the same time, thousands of zombies on the ground have broken through the wall, attacking the southern half of the country. After being attacked by a zombie himself, Osawa is killed by his own guards once they had mistaken him to be one as well.
With the makeshift zombie plane unstable and now traveling back towards northern Japan, Kika engages Rikka in a fistfight. Having gained the upper hand, Kika takes back her heart and kills Rikka by decapitating her, causing all of the zombies in Japan to fall to the ground dead and the plane to start falling apart. Nearly falling to her death, Kika is quickly saved by No-Name and Kaito. No longing needing any use for her original heart, she crushes it in her hand.
During the end credits, the final missile explodes, launching Rikka's severed head into space where it eventually lands on an alien planet and presumably striking an inhabitant the same way the meteorite did to Rikka.
- Yumiko Hara as Kika
- Eihi Shiina as Rikka
- Kazuki Namioka as Kaito
- Yūrei Yanagi as Taku
- Minoru Torihada
- Gadarukanaru Taka
- Mizuki Kusumi as Nanashi
- Asami Sugiura as Wall Guard
Director Yoshihiro Nishimura began working on the script to Helldriver in 2009. Nishimura took influence from George A. Romero's film Night of the Living Dead which dealt with current events of the day. Nishimura stated that there was "quite a lot of satire and social criticism in this film...I describe what ensues after the nation splits in two, with humans controlling one half and zombies the other, and the kind of discrimination that would occur within Japan were something severe like this to happen."
Helldriver had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas on September 28, 2010. It was also an Official Selection at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival in 2010, the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in 2011, the Calgary International Film Festival in 2011 and Montreal's Fantasia International Festival in 2011.
The film had its theatrical release in Japan on July 23, 2011. The screening of Helldriver at the New York Japan Society in April 2011 was a benefit in aid for the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
Film Business Asia gave the film a six out of ten rating, calling it a "average-to-occasionally-inspired effort" that was not as strong as Nishimura's Tokyo Gore Police but better than Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl. The review went on to say that the film "suffers from the perennial problem with all zombie movies: the creatures have only one way of attacking and the heroes have only one way of killing — which soon becomes repetitive unless there's an interesting story or characters." The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, stating that "Even for a genre film, the storyline is negligible" and the "action choreography is run-of-the-mill." The review went on to praise the make-up in the film, stating that "Nishimura put tender loving care into image and costume design...Even "walk-ons" have distinct facial features and expressions."
- England, Norman (July 6, 2010). ""Helldriver": First Report, Exclusive Pics". Fangoria. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- Elley, Derek (July 12, 2011). "Helldriver (ヘルドライバー)". Film Business Asia. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "Fantasia Films and Schedule". Fantasia Festival. Retrieved 2011-09-14. External link in
- Abrams, Simon (April 28, 2011). "Japanese society raises money for tsunami relief with 'Helldriver,' a movie about mutant girls with chainsaws for arms". Capital New York. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- Lee, Maggie (February 13, 2011). "Helldriver: Berlin Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2011.