‘Blood Drive’ Is Syfy’s Gross Grindhouse

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Photo: SyFy

In Blood Drive, the new Syfy series premiering Wednesday night, a drag race is being run by souped-up cars that operate not on gas, but on human blood. Pop the hood on one of these babies and you’re met with grinding, gnashing metal teeth surrounding the engine: Luckless people are tossed in, mechanically masticated, and drained of red fuel.

Blood Drive is set in an alternate America circa 1999, in an America where water is so scarce the police hunt you down for drinking too much of it. Everything is rottenly corrupt to the core: A corporation called Heart Enterprises controls everything, including a police force that murders and takes bribes. (A sign on a station-house wall reads, “We Kill Because We Care.”) Who to root for in this mess? A lone good cop named Arnold (Alan Ritchson) and a young woman wearing Daisy Dukes with a bullet-lined belt named Grace (Christina Ochoa). Through a plot twist too tedious to explain, they end up paired together in an auto race — called, naturally, the Blood Drive — speeding from Los Angeles to Arizona.

Created by writer James Roland, Blood Drive is just the latest variation on half-century-old grindhouse fare such as Death Race 2000 (1975) — or more recently and more directly inspirational, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse (2007). In the ’70s, it was startling to see sleazy characters and gobs of sex ’n’ violence. In 2017, it’s just business as usual. Indeed, Blood Drive is all too much a product of these times. The series begins with Grace being threatened with rape by a couple of grimy creeps, but there’s not so much as a second of suspense because, according to current pop-culture law, no woman is ever allowed to be shown as a victim or as less than a superhumanly skilled, savvy person who easily defeats idiotic men who didn’t get that memo.

Blood Drive tries to expand its canvas by presenting a 24-hour, bacchanalian revel presided over by a top-hatted MC named Julian Slink (Colin Cunningham). The whole party-scene setting, complete with sneering guys with chains and women in brightly colored wigs, is apparently intended to make you gawp at its carnal adventurousness. Instead, like the rest of Blood Drive, it’s as painfully boring as watching someone hit his fingers repeatedly with a hammer in an attempt to shock you.

Blood Drive airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Syfy.

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