Mini-review: Blood Drive 1×1 (US/UK: Syfy)

A total grind

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

  • JustStark

    Sounds like they should have gone with my idea of ‘a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive in which the cars run on human blood’.

    ‘I say, Doris, is that a hitchiker I spy up ahead?’

    ‘I do believe it is, dear. Quite a chubby one, too.’

    ‘Capital! We’ve been running on fumes since Leamington Spa.’

    • Pretty much any other idea would have been preferable

      • JustStark

        A friend of mine does have a breadknife he uses for barbecues, which runs on human blood.

        • They all do these days. I read in the Daily Express it’s because of EU regulations

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  • William Hedley

    Lots of ludicrous violence and swearing but still the same old American fear of exposed breasts or genitals: people have sex with their clothes on. Spartacus it is not.

    • No. Basic cable rather than premium cable in the US, mind, so far less latitude on offer. Odd what you get away with in terms of gore, though.

      Thanks for dropping by – hope you stick around to join in the fun!

      • William Hedley

        Didn’t know there were two levels of cable!

        • Yeah. You’ve got your broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) which are the equivalent of our BBC, ITV, etc, and where even a bit of swearing or nudity gets some furrowed brows. Violence they’re less fussed about, mind.

          Then you have basic cable, which is what everyone who gets cable gets included in their subscription – there’s a bit more latitude there, increasingly so in fact, with a bit more swearing and violence allowed. Basically the equivalent of Dave or Sky1.

          Then there’s premium cable networks, like HBO, Showtime and Starz, which you have to pay extra for (up to $35 a month, in fact) but where pretty much anything goes, including sex (straight and gay), full frontal nudity (male and female), uncensored swearing, really insane violence, etc. Think Sex and the City, Game of Thrones, Spartacus – all premium cable shows.

          It’s still interesting to see at each level what’s deemed acceptable versus what we see as acceptable – the usual thing about the US being more permissive about violence than us, but less permissive about sex and swearing.