REVIEW | 'BLOOD DRIVE' brings low-budget grind house to Syfy

TV | Syfy's new show looks to shock and offend with a campy cross-country race fueled by blood

In a word, Blood Drive is… bad. But one word doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it.

If you're not a regular fan of Syfy (the channel, not the genre—they are quite different), then the closest you've come to experiencing it was probably Sharknado. If so, you've seen what might be called the "best" of what Syfy does: the kind of stuff that's so bad—and just the right amount of self-aware—that it's good, even great television.

Syfy's newest series, Blood Drive, presented by Midnight Grindhouse, is the same kind of program. Instead of spoofing summer shark movies, Blood Drive pays homage to the best/worst of the grind house genre. No matter how much you enjoy it, you can't call it good.

I first thought the Grindhouse Cinema brand was connected to the Grindhouse double-feature film, created in 2007 by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. In fact, they're not at all related and some quick research shows that Midnight Grindhouse is a trademark of NBCUniversal Media, LLC. It also turns out that Syfy is owned by NBCUniversal, so it all suddenly makes more and less sense.

Arthur and Grace share a drink before the race. (YouTube)

The first observation, after how immediately bad the acting is, might be the HBO/Starz levels of profanity. That's something you won't find in Sharknado. The show wastes no time plunging past its bare minimum backstory and into the mid- or post-apocalyptic world of whenever this takes place.

Fracking has carved a gash through the U.S. that basically follows the Mississippi and has left the country without fuel. The show places itself "in the distant future of 1999," but there's really nothing to suggest a time setting besides the beige PCs and lack of smartphones. The receptionist at the show's Umbrella Corporation-copy, "Heart Enterprises," taps on a tablet that looks exactly like an iPad. The show basically tries to create 1999 as if it were being imagined in 1968.

Hungry engine. (YouTube)

It exaggerates the blood, gore, sex and profanity to salute a specific subgenre of grind house each week, all while following a cross-country death race called the Blood Drive. A maniacal host (Colin Cunningham; think Joker in black) pits pairs of racers against each other for a grand cash prize. The last place finishers at each stop die and, oh yeah, the cars run on human blood.

"Why would anyone do that?" asks our hero-cop, Arthur, in a skin-tight police uniform like a 2017 Halloween costume (Alan Ritchson). There's no technical explanation given for how this works, nor is anybody asking for one. After a hopeless attempt to singlehandedly stop the entire operation after stumbling into the starting ceremony, Arthur is forced into the race with a partner, Grace (Christina Ochoa).

When Arthur scolds her for killing for money, Grace explains: "That's enough to get my sister the help she needs and set us up for life." Thinking that would be all the explanation the show felt like it needed, I was surprised that her sister already becomes a real, live, almost-character who probably does need to be saved.

Slink, the master of ceremonies. (YouTube)

Other racers include Fat Elvis, the Gentleman (posh Brit.) and the Scholar (his likely illiterate mechanic partner), and a variety of horrible, murderous people. There's a cannibal called Caligula who has something to do with something. Plus, Arthur's police partner, Chris (Thomas Dominique), has been abducted by bionic humanoids in the impenetrable basements of Heart Enterprises, apparently to "recruit" him.

"Is everybody a psychopath?" Arthur asks on his whirlwind first day in the race. Short answer: yes. Episode 2 was a tribute to the cannibal and zombie subgenre, where a diner serving homestyle human becomes the battle ground between the racers and a gang of hungry customers.

Arthur is the first to discover the restaurant's secret recipe and warns the Gentleman:

Arthur: You're going to want to stop eating that.

Gent.: Give me one good reason.

Arthur: It's made of people.

Gent.: Mm. No wonder it tastes so pedestrian.

If that made you laugh as loudly as I did, then please enjoy Blood Drive for 13 episodes of campy gore, every Wednesday at 10pm Eastern, on Syfy.

Watch full episodes online here.

Follow Blood Drive on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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