If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
With the blood still drying on the recently wrapped set of HELLDRIVER—Japanese filmmaker Yoshihiro Nishimura’s latest and most ambitious production to date—the man who gave us TOKYO GORE POLICE and co-directed VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL and the new MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD, and whose special makeup FX have intensified such films as MACHINE GIRL and ROBOGEISHA, has taken his vast experience in the bizarre realm of Japanese exploitation cinema and is forging a film that aims to be Japan’s first zombie epic. You can get a first taste from the exclusive photos seen below.
HELLDRIVER went before the cameras May 15 in an abandoned warehouse in the city of Choshi, a few hours outside Tokyo. From the first shots of the undead being fed body parts to the last of a mob of ghouls creating a bloodbath out of the downtrodden folk of a postapocalyptic shopping street—a bloodbath so severe that the dirt floor of the warehouse turned crimson—it was clear that over the coming weeks of production, Nishimura (fourth photo below, right) and his crew were hellbent on outdoing all their previous efforts to date.
Several days later near Mt. Fuji, with shooting lasting until sunrise in a downpour so unrelenting it would have shut down a lesser production, an even greater mob of walking dead has been assembled. Encircling an actor portraying a Japanese politician, the ghouls, on cue, heave in all directions, pulling the guy apart as if he were made of butter. Flying every which way, the blood—fed from a garbage bin frothing to the brim—is so thick that no staff member, including this writer, goes unscathed by the red. Then, after a scant few hours’ sleep, everyone is back at it, blowing up the heads of a pair of homeless men.
It should be clear to anyone familiar with Nishimura’s work that if there’s one certainty in the cinema world, it’s that his films are jam-packed with outrageous visuals and jaw-dropping gall. So much so that verbal plot descriptions are almost an act of futility. Rather than sum up the story at this early point, a listing of HELLDRIVER’s ingredients present on the days Fango spent on set might better bring things into some kind of coherent focus. These sights included not only the aforementioned zombie mobs (among them Nishimura’s own daughter, seen in first photo center), rivers of blood and doomsday slum, but also crates of body parts, a zombie spider woman, AUDITION’s Eihi Shiina (second photo), a car constructed from the body parts of the undead, pole dancing, exploding heads, chainsaw katana, illicit drugs culled from the ghouls themselves, (real) cockroach-eaters, trigger-happy yakuza, military police with bizarre headgear, a huge blanket made of rotting zombies and—if that’s not enough—a disembodied, floating alien brain.
Along the way, the production winds up in the subterranean tunnels of a hotel abandoned mid-construction. It’s here, in the damp, echoing halls, that Fango is finally able to get a word out of Nishimura, who has been going full-force since the first day of filming.
“This is a zombie movie, and as you know, there are not a lot of those in Japan,” Nishimura begins, the long hours unable to dull his enthusiasm. “The first zombie film by George A. Romero dealt with contemporary issues, such as race relations, but not a lot of zombie movies are that way anymore. When I started work on the script a year back, I decided to take Romero’s approach and deal with current events. Actually, there’s quite a lot of satire and social criticism in this film. Quite a lot. That’s the underlying soul of HELLDRIVER. 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 also presents what Japanese zombies might look like,” he continues. “For example, we have geisha zombie and others that could only come out of this country. We shot at a zombie bar yesterday where many of them wore Japanese-style clothing. So, that’s one thing that is making this movie unique to Japan.”
As a veteran of several Nishimura productions, this writer has seen a lot of blood, a lot of extreme applications of latex and a lot of human behavior that would raise an eyebrow on even the most punk among us—but none so much as what has gone down on the set of HELLDRIVER. When questioned on the psyche of the movie’s set, Nishimura grins before commenting.
“There are about three times more special makeup effects in this, compared to my other films. Not only that, but the hours are long and it has been tough on all of us. Besides, as I shoot this, I’m now realizing how hard it is to make a zombie movie. In TOKYO GORE POLICE I only had to make characters. But this time there is the concept of the undead as a prerequisite. That’s adding to the already difficult challenge of filmmaking.”
In addition to Shiina (who also starred for Nishimura in TOKYO GORE POLICE), HELLDRIVER stars Yumiko Hara (third photo), Kazuki Namioka, Kentaro Kishi and the expected collection of Nishimura regulars. The film is being produced by Nikkatsu Studio as part of their rapidly growing Sushi Typhoon lineup and is expected to be completed this October. Look for further exclusive interviews, set tales and photos at this site and in upcoming issues of FANGORIA.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment