In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Syfy UK
Grindhouse is one of those genres that never really took off in the UK. Best known for its exploitation tropes, you can probably name a few grindhouse movies, such as Death Race 2000, but chances are you won’t have seen them, since they were pretty much eclipsed in our national consciousness by ‘Video Nasties’ such as Driller Killer.
In the US, it’s a different story, perhaps in part because of film nerds like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez doing their best to repopulise the genre. I’m not convinced people genuinely like it, so much as have fond feelings for it that probably wouldn’t survive their rewatching any of their favourites. But so long as they never actually look to see if their memories have cheated them, grindhouse will still sit in the hearts of many a middle-aged US nerd.
Blood Drive is an explicit (in all senses) effort to capitalise on that fact-free nostalgia but makes the fatal mistake of being authentically terrible rather than post-modernly tongue-in-cheek terrible. Set in the far flung dystopian future of ‘1999’, the show sees the world’s resources all used up, petrol at $1,000+ a barrel, water scarce and crime rapant. Against this backdrop is a race through the US for no really good reason. All you need to know is that the race is happening and the cars run on… HUMAN BLOOD!!!!
The ‘heroes’ of the piece are former Aquaman Alan Ritchson as the one honest LA cop left who ends up having to join the race and hotty old hand Christina Ochoa (Matador, Animal Kingdom)*, both of whom must fight against all and sundry, particularly the other drivers, while occasionally having to top up with a pint or two of O-.
The show’s tongue is very firmly placed in its cheek. Unfortunately, it’s also placed firmly in your cheek, too, making it all a deeply unpleasant experience to watch. It’s not just the gore, it’s the letchery, sexism, racism et al that make it a hard viewing.
More so, everything is knowingly stupid, rather than fun stupid, appealing to the ‘tickbox’ mentality of genre fans, rather than just trying to enjoy itself. Characters are deliberately poorly drawn, budgets are low, direction poor because that’s Grindhouse – but that was largely all through necessity with the originals, rather than because of deliberate choices.
As a show Blood Drive is deliberately bad, but so bad it’s unwatchable, rather than a secret pleasure. If you’re the sort of person who likes Sharknado, you might enjoy Blood Drive. But if you like shows that are… good, then steer well clear.
* Who I’m fascinated to learn is a member of Mensa who studied marine biology, focusing on elasmobranchii; an “actress, science communicator and writer”; grand-niece of 1959 Nobel Prize winner Severo Ochoa; and daughter of acclaimed Spanish sculptor Victor Ochoa. Blood Drive really doesn’t play to her strengths