I had the opportunity to see Director Jason Lei Howden’s film “Deathgasm,” a return to the metal horror films of the 1980s. Horror House Party extends sincere thanks to Miguel Rodriguez, Horrible Imaginings, and Dread Central for access to “Deathgasm.” (Read our complete review policy.)
Spoiler Alert: This review of “Deathgasm” contains spoilers. Read at your own risk. There is a spoiler-free article in the News section.
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Sometimes, we watch horror films to ponder the existential questions of life and death. Sometimes, we watch them to be scared out of our minds. And sometimes, we watch them just to have fun. “Deathgasm” is one of those films we watch just to have fun.
New Zealand filmmaker Jason Lei Howden is best known for his visual effects work with WETA Digital on such films as “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012), “The Avengers” (2012), and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013). But now, after winning the New Zealand “Make Our Horror Movie” competition with the feature film “Deathgasm,” Howden has proven himself as a successful filmmaker in his own right.
In “Deathgasm,” Howden combines 1980s metal-horror tropes with contemporary teen-age social issues to produce a completely contemporary metal-horror-comedy that asks: What if your parents were right when they said “that music” was for summoning demons? The answer, according to Howden’s movie, is that things will get extremely messed up extremely quickly.
Brodie (played by Milo Cawthorne, himself a horror filmmaker) has just moved in with his religious aunt and uncle. He doesn’t exactly fit in with the new conservative community, eschewing the sweater-and-khakis look for corpse make-up and creating a heavy metal band (the titular “DEATHGASM”) with his friends Zakk (played by James Blake), Dion (played by Sam Berkley), and Giles (played by Daniel Cresswell). After his cousin beats the crap out of him once too often, Brodie and the band play a song and – just accidentally, mind you – summon . . . yeah, you guessed it, a demon. Of course, it wouldn’t be high school if Brodie didn’t yearn after a pretty girl, in this case the beautiful Medina (played by Kimberley Crossman), who channels an axe-wielding Valkyrie and is more than capable of holding her own when all hell (literally) breaks loose.
And when it breaks loose, we get all the extreme gore New Zealand has become famous for. The neighbors first, and then all the townspeople, become demonic and attack . . . well, anyone who hasn’t yet turned. Not only do our metal heros have to fight the demonic neighbors, they have to fight the slightly-higher-on-the-food-chain demons, and also fight the cultists who want the music to the summoning song. There are decapitations, limb severings, disembowelings, blindings, spine-ripping-outs, and blood. Lots and lots of blood. Do our heros survive the metal apocalypse? Or the twist ending after things go back to normal? You’ll have to find that out for yourself. And stay seated for one of the best post-twist, mid-credits sequences ever!
It runs just 86 minutes, every one of which is put to good use. The characters are likeable, and, frankly, are portrayed with skill far beyond what I would have expected from such a low-budget flick. The young veteran actor Milo Cawthorne plays social misfit Brodie with unexpected depth and extreme vulnerability. James Blake plays Brodie’s best friend with the seriousness befitting a role model. Sam Berkley and Daniel Cresswell as the role-playing nerds create fully individualized characters, rather than relying on simple stock tropes. Kimberley Crossman plays Medina, the unexpectedly bad-assed heroine.
As I said earlier, this is a “just for fun” movie, not serious, adult-oriented horror. It is a movie about high school kids, for high school kids. Although the United States release is not rated, the film contains very brief sex and nudity; lots of comedic, bloody violence; heavy profanity; and use of regulated substances.
One final note: As you would expect, “Deathgasm” is all about the music. The film features 31 tracks by different heavy metal artists, including the bands Midnight, Elm Street, Nunslaughter, and Emperor. The New Zealand website Rip It Up has links where you can listen to about half of the tracks from the film, so you can get an idea of what kind of metal mayhem backs up the on-screen mayhem.
“Deathgasm” is currently playing limited engagements in select theatres, and is available for streaming. The DVD will be released in the United States on January 15, 2016. Until then, you can get a taste of what you’ll see in this clip:
“Deathgasm” is available now on Amazon Video, in your choice of streaming online video or digital download. In “Deathgasm,” two high school metalheads play a forbidden piece of music that unlocks the gates of hell. Now the two headbangers and a metal maiden must join forces to save their town from a demonic onslaught. It’s brutal! The film stars Milo Cawthorne and James Blake. –- McC
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