A Gruesome Look Back at Syfy’s Blood Drive

One of the things that is so great about horror is how deep its subgenres run, from found footage to slashers to zombie flicks, the genre is a large web full of something for everyone. Throughout the deep dark abyss of our genre is a bastard child…an outcast. That subgenre is exploitation horror. While not every exploitation film is a horror film, the majority of them are, or at least have deep horror roots. Exploitation films have been around since the early ’20s but really came into their own around the ’60s and ’70s when Hollywood and the MPAA were trying to clean their image up. Since the exploitation filmmakers were on the fringe, and since they were doing things on their dime, they were not beholden to Hollywood production studios, typically forgoing a theatrical release for a drive-in release. There hasn’t been a ton of exploitation films in the aughts, and the ones that have been made have largely gone under the radar, sans Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. The only other exploitation type of art that was equally as notable as Grindhouse was none other than Syfy and James Roland’s ’17 tour de force Television program Blood Drive.

A hyper stylized illustrated Blood Drive poster with the entire cast on it, with a heavy feature of Arthur (Alan Ritchson), Grace (Christina Ochoa), Christopher (Thomas Dominique), Aki (Marama Corlett), and Slink (Colin Cunningham)

Premiering in 2017, Syfy’s Blood Drive took the air by brutal force. Blood Drive was created by James Roland who, at the time, mainly worked as first/second unit/assistant director on a few projects. Blood Drive seems to have ended up breaking him into mainstream entertainment.

Blood Drive starts with simple exposition:

The world is broken no one has any food, oil costs $2,000 a barrel and the only way out of this shitty life is a secret road race with a million dollar cash prize…but there’s a twist-All the cars run on human blood. Enjoy the Blood Drive.

Besides a continuity error (the cash prize is $10 million), the show sets itself up with a pretty intense scene. Immediately after that, the show goes from zero to 100 pretty quickly, with a fantastic car chase, and simultaneously introduces us to our badass femme fatale Grace (Christina Ochoa). She is pulled over on the side of the road working on the engine of her cherry-red Chevrolet Camaro, with the vanity license plate ‘KARMA.’ Two disgusting creeps pull up behind her and offer to help, which she declines and peels out. The creeps end up following her, giving us the first car chase of the show. They race until Grace has to pull over because she’s all out of fuel. The creeps skulk up to her and one of them attempts to sexually assault her, but they don’t know who they’re messing with! She grabs the shift knob, which is a badass mini sword, and takes care of the creep like it was nothing. This is also when we get to see the aforementioned ‘cars running on human blood’ concept. She opens the hood of her car to reveal a GNARLY engine with spinning teeth and feeds the creep to her car, filling up her engine.

The introductory scene does a few things. The first is that it perfectly sets up the world we will be living in for the duration of the show; the second is that it prepares us for how much carnage will take place…and it is a lot!

A blood soaked Grace (Christina Ochoa) stands valiantly in front of her cannibalistic Chevrolet Camaro after feeding an attacker straight into her engine

The subsequent scene introduces us to the two other main characters Arthur (Alan Ritchson) and Christopher (Thomas Dominique). They are two police officers working for Contracrime, a new age police force that has replaced the LAPD and whose motto is, “we kill because we care.” Arthur, and for the most part Chris, are good guys who are required to do some unsavory and unethical things as officers. We’re quickly thrust into the world of downtown LA where we see people hacking ATMs, but instead of dispensing money, the ATMs dispense water, giving us more of a look at this dark dystopian world. This is also the time we start to learn about a drug that is sweeping the world called Red Rapture, which is a crazy hallucinogenic that just destroys people mentally.

Arthur would be considered the main character, as he is top-billed and comprises the majority of the screen time. It isn’t until the racially insensitive episode 9 “The Chopsocky Special” that we learn of his true character arc and what brought him to the questionably effective Contracrime.

Arthur (Alan Ritchson) and Grace (Christina Ochoa) stand over the hood of Grace's Chevrolet Camaro while deciding who to fill the blood tank with

There are a ton of memorable moments and characters in this series, but no character is more memorable than Julian Slink (Colin Cunningham), who is the person behind the Blood Drive. They’re an over-the-top theatrical master of the stage. Their wit and humor are completely unmatched by anyone in the show.

Slink (Colin Cunningham) and The Scholar (Darren Kent) try out the explosive control after The Scholar fixed it

In Episode 1, “The F…ing Cop,” Arthur gets caught by Slink and his goons while he is trying to scout things out, with the hope to bring Slink down. Once caught, Arthur is forced to be a partner with grace in the Blood Drive; spoiler alert neither of them are happy with it…yet. All of the racers get chips implanted into their neck that Slink controls through a device in which he can use to explode their head. This is where we’re introduced to a few racers: Rib Bone (Brandon Auret), Domi and Cliff (Jenny Stead and Craig Jackson), The Gentleman and The Scholar (Andrew Hall and Darren Kent), Clown Dick (Paul Pieterse), and Fat Elvis (Adam Pelkowitz).

Blood Drive is 13 episodes, and nearly 13 hours, of pure uncut blood and violence. Each episode takes on different subgenres from cannibals to body horror. While it would be fun to talk about every single moment in depth, you probably don’t have the time to read a 5 hour article. My goal is to, in a reasonable amount of words, share what I think are some of the greatest and most fun moments in the series with the hope that if you haven’t seen the show, you would leave this article with a desperate need to see the show!

Episode 2 “Welcome to Pixie Swallow” is probably my favorite episode. The racers all pull up to Pixie Swallow diner while following the route they need to take. The diner has some wonderful hidden secrets behind it, besides their C health rating, which seems like it’s an homage to ’87’s Blood Diner. There are some wonderful moments in this episode from Arthur using himself as a human jumper cable, to the beginning of Arthur and Grace’s budding friendship. While not the most insane kill in the episode, my favorite is when someone gets thrown into a meat grinder and, well, getting their meat ground. The episode also brings on some brilliant character conflict between The Gentleman and The Scholar.

Episode 3 “Steel City Nightfall” is the first of many outliers. This episode breaks the mold by bringing creatures into the mix. This episode is chock full of zombie film homages, and we meet some disgusting creatures. The creatures are called Glimmers but I came up with a better name for them: C.H.A.D.s Cannibalistic Humanoid Above-Ground Dwellers. Aside from the creatures this episode is a bit hit or miss.

Episode 4 “The Crimson Halls of Kane Hill” brings us the first real rising action of Grace’s arc. We previously found out that Karma is her sister’s name and that her whole goal with entering the Blood Drive is to get enough money to get her sister out of the psychiatric hospital and move away with her. Upon getting to the hotel we find out Karma has been moved to another location. It turns out when Grace and Arthur get to the hospital the inmates are literally running the asylum. The only food they are being given is Smax, which is a candy that is full concentrated Red Rapture. This episode is just completely bonkers and brings a deep emotional level to Grace’s arc.

The Heart Enterprises patented Blood Engine, with all of its nasty flesh eating teeth

Episode 5 “The F…ing Dead,” episode 6 “The Savage Lands,” and episode 7 “The Gentleman’s Agreement,” are fine, but besides a few moments there aren’t any crazy standout things that happen. The one thing that is worth mentioning is in episode 5 where a sex plague is unleashed on the racers, making it the most sexually explicit in the series.

Episode 9 “The Chopsocky Special” is probably the deepest lull of the series. Arthur is dealing with a medical issue, and while incapacitated he goes on a spiritual vision quest. As stated earlier this is where we figure out what Arthur’s true arc is.

Episode 10 “Scar Tissue” is without a doubt my second favorite episode. Arthur and Grace make their respective ways to a town in the middle of nowhere that is aptly named Cronenburgh (no spoilers, but the name makes sense about 15 minutes into the episode). The SFX work on this episode is absolutely beautiful and gut-churning at the same time.

It is impossible to talk about episode 11 “Episode XI: Rise of the Primo,” episode 12 “Faces of Blood Drive,” and episode 13 “Finish Line,” without major spoilers. Due to incredibly low viewership, Blood Drive was only given one season, even though Episode 13 ends with an incredibly interesting cliffhanger. It’s truly a shame that it wasn’t viewed more, or at least given an opportunity to run for one more season. Blood Drive did things that most shows wouldn’t and couldn’t pull off, and they did it gracefully. Well, as graceful as millions of gallons of blood can be. If you’re a fan of exploitation films, grindhouse films, and just insane balls-to-the-wall entertainment you will most likely be a fan of Blood Drive!


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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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