Some films frighten or terrify you, grossing you out with rivers of gore. Others make you laugh. But few can do both in equal measure. The work of Japanese director Yoshihiro Nishimura is surreal creepy and silly. In films like Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl (co directed with Naoyuki Tomomatsu) he delights in the extreme, in grotesque mutations of the human body and pushing things to the point of absurdity. In fact beneath the geysers of blood on his most recent outing, the zombie splatterfest Helldriver, there’s an almost slapstick quality.
“I do like slapstick comedy,” admits Nishimura via email, “but I think I prefer “splatstick” comedy, like EVIL DEAD 2, ARMY OF DARKNESS, RE-ANIMATOR, FRANKENHOOKER and BRAINDEAD!”
Yet there are also elements of everyone from Dali, Jodorowsky and of course Lynch and Cronenberg floating around in his unique hilarious body horror.
“I don’t think they’ve influenced my films directly as much as created a basic mindset within me to create similar works,” he suggests thoughtfully.
Despite directing some shorts when he was younger, it comes as little surprise to discover that Nishimura’s main involvement in the film industry was via special fx on films like Suicide Club, Horny House of Horror, Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, and Machine Girl. In fact he runs his own sfx company, having worked on over 65 feature films. But when the opportunity to direct presented itself arose he grabbed it with both hands.
“I had been working on so many other films over the years as special effects director or makeup designer, that all the time I’d been thinking of how I could do something better than the film I happened to be working on! This was especially true with some of the more boring or uncreative films I’d done effects for. All the while I was working on these sets, I was thinking “why don’t we do this?” or “things would look so much better this way.”
His most recent film is Helldriver, an over the top take on a zombie film. With zombies with machine guns instead of arms and legs and a car made from severed zombie parts it takes extremity to a whole new level.
“I wanted to play with zombies!” He reveals. “I’d wanted to make a zombie movie for some time, but in Japan, zombie movies are a bit difficult. We burn our dead, so there was the issue of coming up with an origin for the zombies.”
“Personally, I want to see things that I’ve never seen before in a movie,” he continues. “The zombie car is one example of that. Something that I thought might be really awesome in a movie, but had never seen anyone attempt before.”
Despite people being split in half, vaginas that turn into the snapping jaws of crocodiles and zombie babies still attached from the umbilical cord flung by its mother at victims, Nishimura points out there are limits.
“I have no interest, for instance, in doing a movie about a woman who gets put into prison and tortured, stuff like that. But if other people want to do it, I think it’s okay. I just may not want to watch it as a viewer. But in terms of my own works, I will always do the things I want to do, no matter what they are or how “extreme” others may consider them. To me, they may not be so extreme.”