Starring Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Daniel Cresswell, Stephen Ure
Directed by Jason Lei Howden
Sometimes, a name just sells you. If a make-believe local video store existed with Danzig playing on the loudspeakers and a poster of Hard Rock Zombies hanging behind the counter, Deathgasm would be the cover that stood out among all the rest on a rainy Friday night. The name just stands out. You HAVE to pick it up and watch it. Thankfully, the film inside that cover lives up to the name, offering up riffs and carnage in maniacal doses. Even if its slip shows and it’s rough around the edges, the glimpses of its low budget and busy cartoon graphics wind up adding more to the charm of Deathgasm than making you want to turn it down from eleven.
First-timer (not sexually) Jason Lei Howden submitted four or five ideas to the Make My Horror Movie contest but won with Deathgasm, a heavy metal horror comedy about guitar playing speed demons, actual demons and the power of friendship. Suburban boredom gives way to headbanging more often than not and rock n’ roll teen Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is no exception, desperately wanting to start a heavy metal band. He gets his wish when Zakk (James Blake) befriends him at a local record store after they bond over their love of metal and hatred of Poison. Brodie’s D&D crazed pal Giles (Daniel Cresswell) joins in on the keyboards as the nerdy equivalent of Ray Manzarek. They grab a drummer and form Deathgasm, quickly becoming the worst but loudest band in town. After coming across their idol Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure) they find an ancient piece of music that has the power to bring forth The Blind One, and ancient demon that sort of resembles a crispy version of Darkness from Ridley Scott’s Legend. With the help and legs of the newly converted blonde bombshell, Medina (Kimberly Crossman), the band fights off the forces of evil and, in the process, they throw up enough devil horns to rival Ronnie James Dio.
In a clear homage to Norwegian death metal band Emperor (a favorite of the Howden’s), Deathgasm wear nearly the same makeup that helped make Emperor a household name. Featuring a soundtrack from bands like Skull Fist, Howden includes a wall-to-wall soundtrack that was first put together on a grass roots level that wound up rallying a horde of metal fans to support Deathgasm getting made. It’s not a musical, but it wouldn’t exist in the form it is if this music wasn’t a part of the DNA of Deathgasm (that sounded wrong).
Howden’s special effects background pays off big with endless practical effects gags and arterial blood spray that almost goes high enough to hit the heavens before it plummets down upon the defiled corpses of the damned. Giving the sequences away here would be a lot like showing you the highlight of your favorite team scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl before you even popped the popcorn. Deathgasm knows exactly what it is and where its heart is, giving genre fans a welcome return to heavy metal in horror without cutting back on any of the splatstick that New Zealand has become known for, for better or worse.
What’s surprisingly poignant about Deathgasm is how it serves as a reminder of so many of our bedrooms growing up: the velvet poster-filled walls and great metal records spilled all over the floor as you doodled gore-filled images on your notebook that were inspiring to you but alarming to teachers. Because of that, Deathgasm makes you want to make the sign of the horns and go out and riot a little bit. There can’t be anything wrong with that, right?