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HELLDRIVER REVIEW, TOKYO MOVIE PREMIERE: JAPANESE HORROR ZOMBIE SPLATTER GORE FILM. AUDITION ACTRESS EIHI SHIINA.


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Zombies, blood and gore! In March, my spooky friend John Skeleton reported on the Helldriver Tokyo premiere at the Zombie Film Festival. On July 23rd, he saw the uncensored cut at Japan’s official theatrical launch of Helldriver.

Mr Skeleton’s gore-soaked ride involves severed heads in the bathroom, and a long conversation with actress Eihi Shiina (Audition). Grab your favorite rubber ducky: we’re about to jump into a serious bloodbath! (Photos by Norman England.)

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After a lovely dinner at the Vampire Café in Ginza, I found myself staring down a wide staircase leading to what might best be described as a glorified underground passageway. Guarded by an AVN alien, lined with bloody, severed zombie heads, and crowned with the massive scythes wielded by Tak Sakaguchi’s Kisaragi in Mutant Girls Squad, it wasn’t too difficult to spot the right entrance. Fans milled about the area, lining up dutifully to receive felt-tip blessings. I was pleased to catch up with director Yoshihiro Nishimura, actor Kishi Kentaro, and my friend Norman England (an extra in the film and responsible for the excellent English subtitles). I also had the privilege of conversing with the always delightful Asami, who appears in Helldriver and other notable Nishimura/Iguchi films.

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After being pushed back for nearly thirty minutes, the eager film aficionados were finally allowed into the theater, pouring into a lobby full zombie heads, ninja suits, and other props. Even the restrooms were unable to escape the carnage! Official Helldriver T-shirts were available for sale, and a booth was set up for live interviews.

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The theater itself was cramped and could have used more air conditioning. But none of that mattered when Noboru Iguchi lurched to the front in a rather loose kimono, shouting something barely comprehensible from beneath an ill-fitting latex zombie mask. Director Nishimura then led the cast out to the stage, including actresses Yumiko Hara and Eihi Shiina. It took nary a moment’s convincing to have Nishimura strip down to the fundoshi Japanese undergarment that has become his trademark at these events. With Mr. Iguchi serving as master of ceremonies, the cast and crew related their thoughts on the film and the grueling two weeks of Hell that gave birth to this latest monster mashup.

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While I reviewed Helldriver in my previous report, a second viewing allowed me to see the depth beneath hyperactive tale of carnage and mayhem. (You can read John Skeleton’s full, thoughtful critique on his blog.)

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So what was different about this “extended” version? An Asami/Takumi Saito mini-arc and priest storyline, and an extended scene featuring the capture and subsequent devouring of Nanashi’s school uniform-clad younger sister. Tied down in a chair, the girl is surrounded by devilishly leering zombies and, in a somewhat disturbing scene… a sensitive area is bitten off. Cue torrents of gushing blood.

Some of you might remember the rant in my first review, where I expressed a few gripes about the way in which some action sequences seemed to drag on. Well, Mr. Nishimura provided an eye-opening statement, where he essentially said that he “wanted to create a film that will tire foreign audiences out.” In other words, he wished to test the limits of viewers in their craving for outrageous action and over-the-top gore, and I believe that the director has indeed pushed the boundaries in this particular area. Recalling his phrase, I was able to enjoy the lengthy scenes more than the last time.

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After a brief chuckle over a humorous cameo in the final scene, one could almost perceive a collective sigh (of satisfaction) as the room brightened and the “Helldriver” launch came to a close. Slowly filing out of the theater, some audience members lingered in the lobby to examine the grotesque film props, and donate money to the Tohoku Earthquake relief efforts for a chance to vote on their favorite Sushi Typhoon feature of the day. (I’m pleased to say that Helldriver seemed to be winning by a landslide!) My date for the evening, a lovely young lady by the name of Jessica (above), shared with me her impressions of the film as we stepped outside into the slightly cooler night air.

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As is tradition at these events, the cast and crew were standing outside the theater with cheerful smiles, patiently taking the time to sign autographs and shake hands with their devoted fans. I felt honored when lead actress Yumiko Hara thanked me for coming both this time and in March. Receiving a firm handshake from Director Nishimura, I was congratulating him again on creating such a “gutsy” film when, much to my surprise, he said, “Hey, let’s go drinking!” Almost before I knew it, we were caught up with the Sushi Typhoon crew in search of a Ginza watering hole. We finally settled into a pleasant little izakaya (Japanese-style pub).

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We found ourselves seated with Mr. Nishimura and director Noboru Iguchi (who told me a little about his upcoming film, presumably entitled Toilet of the Dead). Asami Yamazaki is sitting next to me. I can hardly believe it, but the lovely Eihi Shiina, who scarred my teenage mind (in the best way possible) with her portrayal of a vengeance-crazed sadist in Audition, and impressed me with her solid performance as engineer hunter Ruka in Tokyo Gore Police, is elegantly sipping her drink in the seat directly beside me!

Working up my courage, I manage to blurt out an introduction and explain how I was first exposed to her work, and she responds with a warm smile and a gentle handshake. When I compliment her role as Helldriver’s demented Rikka, mentioning that it was certainly a very different character from the calm and collected Ruka in TGP, she informs me with a wry smile that Mr. Nishimura told her to “act like Asami at the end of Audition… only for the whole movie.” In fact, fans of Audition may notice a subtle (and somewhat humorous) nod to the film’s final moments in the end of Helldriver.

Throughout the evening I discover that Ms. Shiina is an extremely pleasant conversationalist, discussing her recently hatched plan to become the vocalist of her own band! Not only that, but it turns out that Ms. Shiina is a huge Neon Genesis Evangelion fan . Our interests in anime run deeper still… Perhaps I’ve found a kindred spirit?

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Spending most of her time in her home prefecture of Fukuoka, Ms. Shiina tells me that she values such opportunities to exchange thoughts and opinions in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. She is an elegant, thoughtful lady, and I feel honored to have met her.

As the seats empty and the floor starts to become increasingly occupied by sleeping cast members, I realize that it is time to leave this unique look into the world of Helldriver. Look forward to information on the upcoming DVD release of the film, and in the meantime, check out Shiina Eihi’s personal website. She also has a report on the Helldriver launch and after-party in her most recent blog entries. Until next time, stay out of the sunlight!

A big bloody bite to John Skeleton, for contributing this guest post. More of his horror ramblings on his blog. If you have questions for him, please feel free to leave a comment.

Are you a fan of Audition, Tokyo Gore Police, and other Japan splatter-horror movies? Looking forward to Helldriver? Jealous of Mr. Skeleton’s night with Eihi Shiina?

Song of the Day: Arabesque – Hell Driver (An all-girl disco band that had success in Japan.)

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17 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Thats awesome T_T Surrealism <3"

  2. Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    nice to hear Miss Shiina is a lovely lady, very pretty in real life

  3. Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Ooo I want one of the heads in the bathroom! 

  4. Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could switch places with you! I am a fan of the stuff Sushi Typhoon does, and I would have a fangasm if I were in the presence of this motley crew. My favorite movie from this group of guys being The Machine Girl.(best movie ever)

    • Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Me too… ahhh I wish I were there! John is lucky

  5. Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Soooo want to goooo

  6. Posted August 16, 2011 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Cool report!  I also am a big fan of Audition and Eihi in it.

  7. Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    nice one! 

    asians do horror the best.  great review and i checked out his blog, good work there.

  8. Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    nice one! 

    asians do horror the best.  great review and i checked out his blog, good work there.

  9. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    I like Audition for it’s ability to use gore and violence to advance its larger thematic concerns. I didn’t really enjoy Tokyo Gore Police cause I felt that its use of violence was really a case of ‘gore for the sake of gore’, to the point where it got kinda jaded after a while and turned out quite cheesy. I hope Helldriver would be as good as Audition! Thanks for showcasing this premiere!

    By the way, when I first saw the blood stained handprints in the toilet I immediately thought, ‘Damn, it’s somebody’s time of the month and she didn’t wash her hands’ LOL

    • Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      Hmm, I think Helldriver is more in the Tokyo Gore Police direction… if anything, MORE gore and longer sequences. But it was interesting to read the director’s comment about why he made this choice.

      hahah I thought the same, about the blood! >_<

  10. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Actually the few Japanese movies I’ve seen have made me happy (like Goemon or Ichi) or just scared me half to death (Ju-On; I couldn’t sleep for a bit).   I would’ve actually been freaked out by those zombie heads in the bathroom.  

    • Posted August 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if anyone took the zombie heads home!

      • Posted August 17, 2011 at 4:32 am | Permalink

        That’d be a great souvenir. 

  11. Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    i think i am scared by the decorations of the washroom….=S

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