Syfy’s got your new guilty pleasure: “Blood Drive,” a dystopian grindhouse tour de force about the “meanest, nastiest, filthiest road race in the world.” It’s filled with over-the-top blood, gore, violence, and sex. Have I got your attention?
In case you haven’t caught the first few episodes, “Blood Drive” makes “Death Race 2000” look like “PeeWee’s Big Adventure.” Like Death Race, it’s set in the dystopian future which, in this case is 1999 Los Angeles. but if you’re expecting “Blade Runner,” “The Matrix,” or even “Gattaca,” don’t. This show has no finesse, a thin plot, and you’ll probably be disgusted with yourself for watching it. You’ll think, “Why am I watching this?” Then next week you’ll think, “Why am I watching this again?” Trust me, after an episode you’ll want to take a shower, but then you’ll find yourself back next week in front of the TV.
And “Blood Race” knows this: It’s like all the actors are performing with a wink and a nod. Yes, they’re saying, it’s completely over the top, it’s completely appalling – but aren’t you entertained?
In “Blood Drive,” it’s 1999, the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and gas is scarce as hen’s teeth. There’s only one way to strike it rich: win the Blood Drive car rally and walk away with $10 million. The penalty for losing is mind-blowing. Literally.
Did I mention the cars run on human blood? Which is extracted by throwing live humans head-first into a toothy maw that pulverizes them?
That’s the basic premise of “Blood Drive.”
The main characters are the loosely-clad, leggy, lollipop-sucking Grace D’ Argento (Christina Ochoa), who wants to win the race to rescue her sister Karma from a (literally) insane asylum. The do-gooder cop Arthur Bailey, played by Alan Ritchson (Catching Fire, and Aquaman on Smallville), is probably the only truly pure soul on the planet. He’s corn-fed beefcake in a blue uniform and each week I wait for his bulging forearms to just rip through the sleeves of his shirt. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m keeping an eye on it.
Directing the circus is the somewhat revolting – yet strangely charming – Julian Slink played with just the right amount of sinister campiness by Colin Cunningham (Stargate Atlantis, Falling Skies). He’s the steampunk ringmaster who’ll remind you of your creepy uncle, but with a feather neckpiece and filthy top hat.
Rounding out the main cast is Thomas Dominique (Undercover, Black Mirror) who plays Arthur’s partner Chris Carpenter, kidnapped by the mysterious Heart Corporation (which rules the country) and a prisoner of the android Aki played by Marama Corlett (Sinbad, Guardians of the Galaxy). Aki is a tiny mistress “of pain and pleasure” wrapped up in a tight dress, but she’s pretty much a nympho badass, if you ask me.
In the background, but central to the plot are hints about the evil Heart Corporation that’s ruling the country after finding some very interesting things in the giant “scar” in the middle of the country. The scar was the result of the “great fracking quakes.” So, it’s an environmental cautionary tale! And, perhaps a nod to Battlestar Galactica?
This show has never heard “don’t go there…” In fact, it’s not afraid to go anywhere. Nothing is off-limits. In one episode, the only thing that will short-circuit the electrocution-y implants on the drivers’ necks is, wait for it… sex! So, as Grace says to Arthur, “Do me or die.” Arthur, being a good guy, is a bit hesitant. But time’s a-wasting and electrocution is nigh:
Grace d’Argento: Get behind me quick. Backdoor entrance, Barbie. One-time offer.
Arthur Bailey: Okay.
And that’s the kind of dialogue you can expect from the show.
In a TVLine interview, show creator James Roland explained one of the limitations of the show:
“Like with most censors in America, there are issues with nipples. Everyone’s ‘scared’ of the female nipple, so we had to do some creative CGI work and stuff. But we got around nudity by doing the black bars.”
So, no nipples, but sex, blood, cannibalism, violence, an orgy, a boatload of killing, incest, and involuntary medical procedures are OK – and that’s just in the first five episodes.
From what I’ve seen from watching Syfy, the network seems to be doing some sort of rebranding, but not along the lines of the innocent “Eureka,” stately “Battlestar Galactic” or the eerie “Haven.” “Blood Drive” is an over-the-top blood-, sex-, and violence-soaked carnival ride of pointless exploitation that makes you feel awful for kind of enjoying it.
But don’t worry, “Blood Drive” has a complaint hotline for you if you find the show objectionable. Just dial 325-400-DGAF. I’m not kidding. If you get put on hold, you can always download the coloring book.
If you aren’t squeamish, check out the (NSFW) trailer: