Every heavy metal horror needs to start with an outsider, and Deathgasm’s central character Brodie (Milo Crawthorne) is perfect for the job. His mother has been institutionalised for her drug issues. He is forced to move in with his god bothering Aunt and Uncle and their douchebag jock offspring David (Nick Hoskins-Smith). He has no friends. But at least he has heavy metal.
Outcast at school, and bullied by his own cousin ,things only start to look up when Brodie meets a pair of role playing nerds, Dion and Giles (Sam Berkley and Daniel Cresswell),who cope with the day to day terror in their lives through music and games. Everything falls into place after Brodie encounters fellow metal head, Zakk (James Blake), in the local record store, and they bond over cover art. What else can they do, but the only logical thing under the circumstances? So it is that the band Deathgasm is born. Once some ancient Black prayer is thrown in by accident for the band to play and unintentionally summon the demon Aeloth, The Blind One. With a girl in tow- Medina (Kimberley Crossman)- to brawl over, things are set for one of the most outrageous horror comedies of 2015 to ensue.
Deathgasm is a love letter. A love letter to all the wonderful fist pumping excess heavy metal horror can provide, and some. It is also a beautiful tribute to the splatstick genre that was formed, in part, by the pioneering work of Peter Jackson, on Kiwi shores. Director Jason Lei Howden plays out his own homage to national subgenre convention with plenty of delectable dark wit and copious carnage. Even though the film follows formula to some extent, it is still original, whole heartedly funny and fresh enough to provide a spin that feels new and exciting. It is hardly surprising it did so well on the festival circuit. It’s a feature that demands to be watched in company, preferably over a few beers too, while turning it up to eleven all the way. Understandably, it picked up a number of awards as it travelled its way round festivals during the summer. Fans quickly spreading the word, Deathgasm has also started to generate a certain amount of hype in its wake; although in this case the build-up is much deserved.
For a first time writer/director Howden makes an audacious statement with his opening act. It is a feature that knows its reference points, and uses them well. So we have bunches of metal head in-jokes to enjoy; including an abundance of nods to bands ( an extra ten points automatically goes to any film that mentions Anal Cunt), a fun riff on those hilarious Black metal videos shot out in woodland, plenty of studs and leather, generous use of corpse paint and (of course) the throwing of the horns. Howden based the character of Brodie on his own experiences growing up as a loner metal head in a small town. For this reason, it feels genuine. Even though the metal forms the butt of many of the jokes, everything is done with a huge amount of obvious love for the music and community. This much is evident; working to produce a real carnival atmosphere that provides heaps of fun for those who allow themselves to get into the party vibe.
Howden has made no secret for his admiration for Peter Jackson’s early work- especially Bad Taste – and the effect this had on him back as a young aspiring filmmaker growing up in New Zealand. This is where inspiration takes the high octane splatter to cartoon proportions. As the shit starts to fly- and we have an entire town infected of demons (Lamberto Bava’s Demons– style)- the action scenes pump out the grue, peddle to the metal. If you ever wanted to see what happens when two metal brethren battle it out against possessed family as demons, using a 12 inch black dildo, and anal beads as a weapon, this is the place. Once the chainsaw comes out the director also gets to show a bit of the flair for action he has obviously picked up from his ample knowledge of ninja films. While the violence is fast paced, the effects are a nice mix, and follow the splatstick tradition of being OTT in all the best ways possible. Howden did a stint with the legendary WETA workshop before going into making his own films- as a digital effects artist on blockbusters such as The Avengers, Prometheus and The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug– but for his own piece, there appears to be a nice mix going on. The video effects don’t overpower the piece, and are used wisely.
Howden assembles a fairly inexperienced cast, but they do well to bring the characters to life in such garish style. With plenty to do too, they are put through their paces- especially in the action sequences- but they rise to the challenge; all while keeping the comedy flowing as much as the blood. Milo Cawthorne’s Brodie is highly relatable; playing into that whole metal outsider vibe, developed from genre forerunners such as Trick or Treat. When teamed up with his sidekick and co-star James Blake, as Zakk, the energy between the two allows the dialogue to flow naturally; this certainly helps with the delivery of the many, many punchlines. Kimberley Crossman, as the blonde, metal head in training, Medina, is a strong female lead. She channels the power of metal- quite literally- to play her part in saving the day. The performances all round are pretty solid; although some of the peripheral characters, especially those on the “Team Demon” side of the fence, could have done with more of an airing. Stephen Ure’s Rikki Daggers character for example- resembling a crazed and emaciated “Iggy Pop: metal edition”- would have welcomed more screen time. As is the case for Delaney Tabron as Shanna ; who gets one of the best one liners of the show, but ends up resorting to getting her boobs out before disappearing into the ether.
Deathgasm is certainly not flawless, but it manages to transcend its low budget limitations with an impressive amount of style and infectious energy that is difficult to resist. An inspiring debut statement from newcomer Howden, he keeps it true to the metal warrior spirit. Oh, and the soundtrack is killer too; brutal as.
Verdict: Death to all false metal. Deathgasm plays out some pretty impressive ear shattering riffs to prove it’s nothing but true. Horns up.
For fans of: The Evil Dead (1981), Bad Taste ( 1987), Braindead aka Dead Alive (1992), Trick or Treat (1986), Rock N Roll Nightmare (1987), Black Roses (1988) , Demons (1985), The Day of the Beast aka El día de la Bestia (1995).