A cross between Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny and Bad Taste, Jason Lei Howden’s feature debut is a gory heavy metal journey through suburban New Zealand.
Brodie’s (Milo Cawthorne) very much an outsider at school. Aside from mutual outsider status, he shares nothing in common with his geeky friends, Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell). The three of them form a band with metalhead Zakk (James Blake), which wouldn’t be such a big deal if they hadn’t discovered some demonic sheet music. Now all hell has broken loose and they’re the only people standing between their town and Armageddon.
A love of all things heavy metal seeps through the pores of Deathgasm, and since this is an R-rated comedy horror, said pores are most likely also oozing pus and blood. Taking Troma films and Peter Jackson’s early works as a starting point, the film quickly heads into gory territory. Chainsaws, axes and um…dildos abound, and the film is keen to keep the action bloody and over the top.
Strangely enough, it was the dorky-outsiders-navigating-through-high-school scenes that I enjoyed the most. Howden shows a lot of promise in the directorial department, and some of the more dramatic moments are actually among the best in the film. I saw him speak after the screening and he said he was hoping to get into straight horror films, something at which he’d be quite adept.
Cawthorne is great as the protagonist. He finds a perfect balance between fulltime metal head and part time nerd. Kimberley Crossman is the highest profile name here, and it comes as no surprise to learn that she now lives in Los Angeles – she imbues a stock standard role with real presence.
Ostensibly a low budget movie, Deathgasm looks great. Though Howden has a background in visual effects, there are a lot of practical effects on show which are then enhanced digitally. The cinematography is solid, but for me the film was simply too dark. I know heavy metal isn’t all about sunshine and rainbows, but if you look at some of the best heavy metal albums of all time, there’s a lot of colour splashed about.
The soundtrack is, unsurprisingly, filled with metal mayhem. Whilst there are 30 needle drops, there isn’t much variation. There’s not much in the way of power metal, melodic death metal and definitely no screamo. I like my music heavy (for the record, my top five would be Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse, Type O Negative – October Rust, Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle, In Flames – Come Clarity and Strapping Young Lad – Alien), but I craved more variety.
I enjoyed Deathgasm without loving it. The humour, gore and speedy running time work in its favour, however. Fans of heavy metal and early Peter Jackson need look no further; this is the film you’ve been waiting for…Rating: