Guess what, everyone. Yoshihiro Nishimura is still obsessed with spraying gallons of blood from people’s necks and shoving body parts where they absolutely don’t belong. There’s nothing wrong with that, but after Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, and Mutant Girl Squad, the act is wearing thin enough to rip in half and release a tsunami of the red stuff spraying into the theater.
Kika (Yumiko Hara) has her heart ripped out of her chest by her mother – a vicious woman who gives birth to a massive horde of zombies given power by the horns sticking out of their foreheads. The horde is mostly relegated behind a partition wall that separates Human Japan from Zombie Japan, but Kika teams up to go get her heart back and destroy all the zombies so that the country can be united again.
Nishimura’s films are nothing if not live-action cartoons with brilliant make up on display. They are nonsensical parodies that infuse a lot of random humor and vibrant violence that usually involve catchy Japanese pop music playing over a scene of a blood geyser forming where someone’s head used to be. In short, they are ridiculous and fun.
Unfortunately, the wacky nature of his other work is abandoned here for a slightly more dramatic tone, and (even with a few random jokes inserted in) that tone kills any joy or pleasure that can be derived from the madness. That humor also made up for the cheap look of everything, and here it’s even more glaring than before. In fact, the usual comic feel to the deaths is even completely abandoned in a moment where a girl gets her nipple torn off by zombie teeth. It’s shot like true horror, and it’s far too disgusting to really work without the smirk that Nishimura usually brings to a normally over the top scene like that.
To cut to the chase – Hell Driver is an awful movie.
It’s almost all filler, and when it’s not, it’s a parade of scenes of grotesqueness that we’ve seen before from the director and his effects crew. It looks like scraps cut out from the other films and shoved together just like the body parts that make up his monsters. Yes, we realize that feet don’t belong on shoulders, but the guilty pleasure of that idea has outstayed its welcome here.
The entire middle section is completely forgettable. Things happen. The crew gets together. A government official tells them to go after the Zombie Queen deep within Zombie Territory, and then an incredibly long third act begins which leads to a few interesting fights, but there’s nothing all that engaging.
Then, the movie explodes with goodness. After what feels like days of tedium, the reward at the end of the tunnel is a huge fight scene involving a 30-story monster made entirely of zombie bodies that grabs a pair of missiles and takes to the sky. That’s right. Giant Zombie Frankenstein Rocket of Doom.
If that weren’t enough, and it is, the zombies that get knocked off fall down into Human Territory, and the result is a definitive need for 500 gallons of red Caro syrup. Two huge battle set pieces to cut between, lots and lots of gore, and a bad guy who uses spinal whips with zombie heads at the end of them as weapons. This formula works. The rest of the film absolutely does not.
Over all, it’s tired work that’s a mire of boredom until the final fifteen minutes. That’s not nearly enough to save the film, but it’s not like watching that sequence without context would be all that different from seeing it with the rest of the film attached.