Movie Review – Deathgasm (2015)
Stop. Read the title of this movie again. If this comical conjoining of Eros and Thanatos makes you wary (though it may have made Freud proud), choose a different film to watch. If you’re intrigued, welcome to this review you sick, head-banging motherfucker.
In early 2014 Weta Digital’s Jason Lei Howden won first place in New Zealand’s “Make My Horror Movie” competition, winning the NZ$200,000 prize towards production. Executive Producer Ant Timpson said that “Deathgasm was an early front runner in many peoples’ eyes but it was the sheer enthusiasm and utter commitment shown by Jason and his team that I think helped push the project to pole position.” That same excitement and passion can be seen on the screen, as well.
Howden took inspiration from his youth to write the story of two outcast teenagers who seek escape from their mundane life through heavy metal. Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) lives with his fundamentalist Christian extended-family members who think he’s a Satanist and is bullied by his cousin constantly, and he finds a kindred spirit in Zakk (James Blake), a loner with a fuck-all attitude who helps him indulge in his metal-mania. They form a metal band with two mild-tempered D&D nerds and unwittingly unleash a demonic onslaught upon their town. Joining them is Medina (Kimberley Crossman), Brodie’s crush, though Zakk tries to sabotage their relationship for fear of losing the one guy in the world he’s ever connected with.
The basics of the plot are fairly conventional, but it’s Howden’s way of implementing the heavy metal sensibility that allows Deathgasm to really shine, marrying elements of The Evil Dead (1981) with one of my childhood favorites, The Gate (1987), and adding a gory helping of Brain Dead (1992) for good measure. If a word combination like “murder-boner” is likely to elicit a chuckle from you, you’ll most likely connect with the sometimes offensive and often cartoonish humor and clever editing on display here – everything we’ve come to expect and love from Kiwi splat-stick – even if some of the sight gags run a bit too long.
Deathgasm deals heavily with themes of being misunderstood: Brodie is assumed to be miscreant because of his attire; Medina is not expected to like heavy metal; being a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean being nonjudgmental or squeaky clean, etc. The misfits form their own family, finding solidarity in their ostracism and in their attempts to imagine a more magical and accepting world.
My only gripe with the film, ultimately, is in the ending, which I found to be anticlimactic and somewhat confused. The film builds up this final conflict with a hellish demigod named The Blind One, and I couldn’t help but expect more than what we were given. I am willing to forgive Howden, however, due to the shoe-string budget with which he had to contend. Truly, considering the task at hand and the meager resources available, it’s an accomplishment that Deathgasm turned out as competent and entertaining, let alone as ambitious, as it did.