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TV Review: Blood Drive (Episodes 1-3)

Blood Drive Syfy review Alan Ritchson Christina Ochoa Colin Cunningham

PLOT: Years after an earthquake has permanently dismantled society, a good cop finds himself engaged in a nightmarish race across the country, stuck with a homicidal (and hot) partner in a car that uses blood for fuel.

REVIEW: I've only seen three episodes of Syfy's new series Blood Drive, which in a way is looking like a Greatest Hits of grindhouse tropes. I can't speak for the average viewer, but as a longtime aficionado of the kind of entertaining trash Blood Drive is paying homage to, I'm accustomed to the scandalous sights and sounds the series has thrown at me so far - but that doesn't mean it's lacking a perverse charm of its own. In fact, I found myself enjoying the show the further it went. It starts off as a fairly predictable knockoff of several post-apocalyptic action-horror movies, but as it revs along it builds a surprisingly engaging world of its own. It's like 12 schlocky B-movies crammed into one delirious package and (again, based on the first three episodes, each an hour-long) I can see myself sticking around for the lengthy drive.

Blood Drive Syfy review Alan Ritchson Christina Ochoa Colin Cunningham

Although watching these episodes via screener might be the way to go. Frankly, I don't see how what I've seen will make it to air uncut; there's too much profanity and sexuality for even late night cable. (The blood, plentiful as it is, is cartoonishly spilled, so the violence is the least egregious of the show's sins.) I assume Syfy will be bleeping out the copious amount of F-bombs thrown about, as well as blurring or blocking out the many sex acts performed here and there. This is definitely hard R-rated stuff, and the maniacal vibe that permeates throughout the show will only appeal to fans of morbid dark humor and splattery ultra-violence.

The set-up is more or less predictable: Early on, we meet policeman Arthur (Alan Ritchson), one of the last good guy cops on a force that has been privatized and looks for any way to rid the streets of the lower class. One night, Arthur, along with partner Chris (Thomas Dominique), abruptly stumble upon the opening ceremony of Blood Drive, a cross-country race for rip-roaring maniacs (most of whom have colorful names like Clowndick or Fat Elvis, although some are strangely pedestrian, like white collar husband-and-wife team Cliff and Domi). This sporting event is overseen by an epically seedy master of ceremonies named Julian Slink (Colin Cunningham), and though the race is apparently being televised, it's unclear who is actually watching this nightmarish scenario play out.

Blood Drive Syfy review Alan Ritchson Christina Ochoa Colin Cunningham

At any rate, Arthur finds himself forced to participate in the Blood Drive and ends up with Grace (Christina Ochoa) for a driving partner. Grace is so sexy and badass that practically no man would mind a roadtrip with her, although she's just as eager for blood as anyone: in the opening scene we see her butcher a creep and feed his corpse to her car engine. Yes, in the world of Blood Drive, fuel has become so expensive that these cars run on blood, which means many, many shots of screaming people being jammed under hoods into the chomping, gnashing metallic monster within. (They may only be engines, but they've got teeth that would embarrass the villains of both ALIEN and JAWS.) Although Arthur really doesn't have a choice (thanks to the old "exploding bomb at the base of the skull" trick), he ultimately agrees to see the Blood Drive through because he wants to take down the mysterious forces behind it, while Grace is more interested in winning the prize money at the end of the road so she can free her incarcerated sister.

It would appear as though every episode of Blood Drive is going to take place in a different kind of 70s or 80s-inspired location, featuring all manner of disparate wackos and perilous situations. Each new pitstop will feature a new threat, like, say, hillbilly cannibals or savage cultists. It's a fun idea, and so far the production design and make-up have been quite good, so the insanity playing out is vividly presented. Thankfully, it's not actually going for a scratchy 16mm aesthetic ala Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR, but the fingerprints of that movie are certainly on the show. Other inspirations range from THE ROAD WARRIOR to Neil Marshall's DOOMSDAY to Darren Lynn Bousman's REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA to Roger Corman's DEATH RACE 2000 - the latter of which may be the clearest inspiration of all. You get the idea: it's crude, loud, and filled with souped-up cars, punk-rock psychopaths, hot chicks, nocturnal ghouls, miscreants, murderers and deviants.

Blood Drive is definitely not thinking outside the box when it comes to its characters or main scenario, but it forges forward with determined audacity, splashing carnage and grime across the screen every few minutes or so. It's moderately clever in patches as well, with an ample amount of corporate-culture satire; of course, an all-powerful corporation is involved, and in one meta moment they give story notes to Julian Slink about the very show they're in. Even more amusing is a tribe of former office drones who've lost their minds and worship all powerful "synergy."

Most of our time is spent with Alan Ritchson's Arthur and Christina Ochoa's Grace, and they make for an enjoyable team; he's heroic and virtuous, she's foul-mouthed and devious. Cunningham is a hoot as the slimy (but rather well-spoken) Slink, and the various other characters are just colorful enough to capture your interest during their sub-plots. (Of particular interest are The Gentleman and The Scholar, a shockingly mismatched team if there ever was one.) Whether or not all of this madness will still be as fun by the time Episode 10 rolls around is anyone's guess - this kind of thing can usually sustain itself for only so long - but thus far Blood Drive is doing well at being as unwholesome and disreputable as a network show can be.

Extra Tidbit: Blood Drive premieres on Syfy on Wednesday, June 14th

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