Kika (Yumiko Hara) is a Japanese schoolgirl who was often at loggerheads with her mother Rikka (Eihi Shiina) who she believed cared nothing for her and whose only happiness in life was to make her husband's existence a misery. Imagine her shock one day when Kika returned from school and found Rikka and her degenerate brother chopping up her father's legs as preparation to eat the flesh on them, while he was still alive. A tussle ensued, whereupon Rikka was hit by a meteorite which blasted a hole in her chest, but to make matters worse, she then tore out the heart of her daughter to replace it, and strange effects began to take place with far-reaching consequences...
Ah, you know the drill, it was a Japanese zombie movie and as with most of those, all bets were off as to how wacky things would get. This was the brainchild of director and co-writer Yoshihiro Nishimura whose Tokyo Gore Police had been an international hit, as much as material like that can be hit: international cult success would probably be a more accurate summation of its achievements. As with many of the bad taste on a low budget epics of Japan's less reputable filmmakers, it concentrated on visceral effects more than anything like characterisation or plot, with every element thrown in designed to impress the audience with the sheer, unlikely spectacle of it all.
Despite the slapdash nature of the storyline, which was purely an excuse to string the setpieces together like sketches in a comedy production, it did make a kind of sense inasmuch as you could follow a narrative from A to B. Whether you appreciated what amounted to a couple of hours of the lead character working out her mommy issues on the grandest scale possible - this even reached out into space, beyond the global issues - only with not a minute going by without some purposefully revolting image popping up was a matter of taste, and it was true that while these sorts of movies had a following, they were not numbered among many end of year lists of the finest around.
Yet these were international efforts, in many cases designed to appeal to a market overseas that enjoyed this over the top entertainment, more than in its homeland at times. The idea that Japanese pop culture was just a barrage of barely restrained imagery and sound where anything went in contrast the population's supposedly reserved nature was promoted in films such as these more than anywhere, and there was a sense in stuff like Helldriver in particular that it was pandering to this perceived target as much as it was an expression of the filmmakers' true leanings, artistic or otherwise. Still, who cared about all that when you could see a car built out of zombie body parts in a high speed chase across the Japanese countryside as our heroine used a chainsword against her foes?
A chainsword being a sword that has a chainsaw mechanism on it, silly. You could not fault Nishimura for keeping the energy levels high, as almost everything here was presented in a state of near-hysteria, and at times, outright, full-blown mania. The premise had it that Rikka (Shiina would be best known in the West as the dodgy date in Takashi Miike's Audition) has been infected by the meteorite's power and spawned a zombie infestation as more and more people were bitten and passed on the virus; you could tell who had been infected thanks to the Y-shaped horn growing out of their foreheads which apparently picked the message of destruction from their mother figure, and Kika's actual mother too. It was fairly relentless as an amusement, and you would not be blamed for tiring long before the finish line was in sight, but every so often you would be confronted with a visual that, if not wholly transgressive, then at least was something original considering the milieu we were couched in. Music by Kou Nakagawa.