2015, NR, 86 min. Directed by Jason Lei Howden. Starring Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Delaney Tabron, Stephen Ure, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 9, 2015
If you see only one movie this year that climaxes with demon-possessed evangelical Christians being beaten into submission by metalheads wielding double-headed black dildos and flailing anal beads, well, obviously, Deathgasm should be it. First-time director and avowed metal maniac Jason Lei Howden sprays his splatstick influences (Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, Sam Raimi’s first two Evil Dead films, Shaun of the Dead) all over the place, but still manages to leave his own hyperactive signature on the genre. He pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of consistently making you feel genuine emotions for his characters, constantly coated in grue though they may be. This mini-masterpiece of crazed Kiwi filmmaking was initially the winner of a one-line pitch-and-synopsis contest created by executive producer Ant Timpson (Drafthouse Films’ The ABCs of Death), and it’s a testament to the dedication and talent of Howden and his cast that Deathgasm lives up to its name and then some. Rarely does a film leave me laughing, gagging, and headbanging simultaneously.
Cawthorne is Brodie, the new heavy metal misfit in a small New Zealand town. Sent to live with his white-bread relations following a family fracas (deftly explained early on), Brodie’s a beat-down magnet, with his chief nemesis being his own cousin. While digging through the metal section at the local record store – Deathgasm has a very Eighties vibe to it – he makes friends with elder metal statesman Zakk (Blake), recruits two school chums (Berkley and Cresswell, both goofily wonderful in their roles), and together they form the titular band. Through a gnarly but compacted bit of business involving a satanic hymnal and a reclusive metal legend, they end up invoking a hellacious demon that threatens not only the world but tests their friendships and loyalties as well. Chaos, you know, reigns.
Howden scripted as well, and while Deathgasm is exactly what you’d expect from the title, it’s also considerably more than just shrieking demons and endless rivers of gore. Peppered with clever, self-referential one-liners that whip by almost too fast to catch them, Deathgasm is – like most metalheads/punks/Morrissey fans – a helluva lot smarter than one might at first suspect. Imbued with a very Kiwi sense of humor found in Jackson’s early work, it’s the rare over-the-top horror show that’s also brimming with heart. Even if that heart is being ripped from somebody’s chest.