Deathgasm full movie review - A Mostly Fun Romp...For Metalheads, At Least
Deathgasm, a New Zealand horror comedy from writer/director Jason Lei Howden, tackles two subjects I am fond of- heavy metal and demonic possession.
The film follows two lovable teenage losers (played by Milo Cawthorn and James Blake)?or maybe not so lovable to most people, as they pretty much just listen to metal and be general ne'erdowells. One day they start a band, but they need a fantastic song to play. So of course they break into an aging legendary metal vocalist's mansion to steal a fantastic song. But when they play it, it turns out it's cursed. This means they inadvertently unleash a horde of demons into the bodies of the normally placid townsfolk.
What follows is a metal-infused take on Evil Dead, with the film nodding to films such as that classic series as well as the underrated Demons series. Of course, this is very familiar ground being tread on here, but the clear love of this style of horror film as well as dedication to visually pulling it off stand out from director Howden. The humor is quirky and offbeat, not unlike other New Zealand comedy-horrors Dead Alive and Black Sheep. The cheese factor is incredibly high here, so take that with a grain of salt. Some horror films are made more to be macabre displays of gratuitous gore and gags than genuine attempts to disturb and scare. This one does that in spades. As a splatter film, this is of the highest order, with hilarious practical effects to boot.
The plot of the film is mostly just a losers vs. the world story, but with the added benefit of a surprisingly well done love story. Yep, a beautiful girl (played by Kimberly Crossman) is involved, and both of our two losers want her. It could have ended up being a painful thing to watch as love triangles usually suck. But here, the mock nihilism pervading the film keeps it from being overly soapy. In fact, it's almost anti-romantic. The film is about metal-heads, after all. There's a moment in the film when our non-metal-head love interest listens to metal for the first time and enters a vision reminiscent of the classic 1981 Heavy Metal. It's really, really dumb, but simultaneously awesome. Thankfully the character development here is quite good to balance out all the goofy sleaze. Well, at least for our central three characters. The other band members are useless nerd stereotypes, and the villains are comically stereotypical "dark wizards" or some crap like that. Pretty much everyone outside our main cast are nothing but tropes to service the plot.
And the story is clearly the weak point, as it's a short film and the characters lack much to do once everyone becomes a demon. Thankfully it doesn't overstay its welcome. It does seem to rush the ending a bit, though. The budget is also obviously on the lower end, so the look and feel follows along that. Nobody's gonna call the cinematography "slick and polished," and who would want that for this kind of grindhouse schlock that has unfortunately been re-titled "Heavy Metal Apocalypse" at Walmart. Because ?gasm is just too offensive of a suffix, right? But the dedication to make a mostly fun movie shines through. It reminds me a lot of Dance of the Dead, a similarly low-budget American zombie film from 2008. Of course, it's very funny and competent at all the grindhouse must-haves, complete with random nudity.
Of course this brings me to what will probably turn off a lot of people- it is an incredibly stupid movie. If you're expecting something unique or scary, it's just about the worst you could come across. You'll know if it's for you just by the premise alone. It's pure schlock, but the characters are very organic and likable, the deadpan humor fits perfectly with the ridiculous blood/gore, and the music matches the on-screen insanity and overall tone of the flick. It's a fun diversion without any seriousness. It's a decent popcorn flick? if you can hold it down.