DEATHGASM is a lot of things; funny, creepy, rocking and totally fucking awesome. Carrying on the trend of high quality horror comedy coming from New Zealand (What We Do In The Shadows, Housebound), Jason Lei Howden’s DEATHGASM is the best heavy metal film ever and completely enthralling from the very opening scenes. Howden (who also wrote the film) illustrates an incredible technical skill through the film’s pacing and the way it looks on screen (which is excellent by the way).
The story follows a young metal head, Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) who is sent to a small town in the middle of nowhere after his mother is jailed. He lives with his hyper Christian aunt and uncle and dickhead jock cousin. None of his family are impressed when Brodie turns up and covers the walls of his room in posters for bands like Trivium and with images of the innards of a cow having fallen out of its backside. But he just wants a quiet life playing guitar and trying to fit in. The problem is, his friends at school are geeks and his cousin is part of the ‘cool’ crowd who want to bash Brodie’s face in. Tough life. One day he meets Zakk (James Blake), a fellow rocker at a record store and the two instantly connect over their love of music and being outsiders. Along with Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell), the four start a band called DEATHGASM (all caps, lower case is for pussies) and they start to rock out in Brodie’s garage.
For the first time in Brodie’s life he may actually be fitting in with a group, he may have found some people. This is an important aspect of the film because in amongst the hyperactivity of the story and the comedy, at it’s heart it is about someone who just wants to be accepted. It is this aspect that makes the film so damn relatable for pretty much every single person watching; we all just want to find our people. So if you strip away the supernatural elements, Howden has created an incredibly powerful film about every single one of us… he just decorates that with heavy metal music and rebellion.
As with all these stories there is a girl, of course there is a girl. Medina (Kimberley Crossman) just happens to be dating the dickhead cousin but she is intrigued by Brodie and his interests. She is seemingly an innocent girl, clean up and fresh looking – surely this metal world doesn’t interest her in the slightest? But this is Howden’s other charm in DEATHGASM; whilst it could be thought of as fantasy he is great at subverting the audience’s expectations of the characters. When you are lead to believe that being a metal head could be dangerous and violent, these guys are the sweet and often charming and the jock’s girlfriend actually is a hidden heavy metal fan and amazing at killing with an axe. Brilliant!
When Medina shows an interest in Brodie (which actually brings about the best awkward ice cream eating scene ever in cinema), that it gets him beaten up and so along with the rest of his band (they are unknowingly taking part) they play a piece of music (which Brodie and Zakk found in the belongings of an old heavy metal icon living in the area) that summons a demon known as The Blind One, an ancient evil that promises fame and fortune. The demon also promises to hurt everyone else along the way. So when the townspeople all lose their eyes and turn demon like (as preparation for the arrival of their leader) except for Brodie and his friends, it is up to them to save the day and stop the The Blind One from killing everyone. Throw in a group of the occult trying to make sure that The Blind One arrives safely and are offering use of their bodies as a shell and you have an idea of the kind of party that DEATHGASM is.
Quite simply put, DEATHGASM is almost the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off. Howden isn’t necessarily interested in creating a spooky horror film but instead a film that has an interesting message that also has plenty to remember afterwards. The relationship between the two leads, Brodie and Zakk is fascinating – they bond so deeply on this mutual love for something that everything else really comes second to it. At the end of the day, they pretty much have each other and it is this bond that is tested over and over again until the gripping climatic sequence. Howden know’s this clearly and so gives a pretty intense payoff for what the audience have been following for the previous 80 mins. The chemistry between Cawthorne and Blake is great, they connect and may as well be best friends themselves in reality – it wouldn’t be a surprise.
One final note, DEATHGASM has the single best use of a gigantic double ended dildo that has been graced the screen. When the characters are in dire need for weapons and the only thing they find is a box of sex toys (belonging the the ultra religious aunt and uncle), the audience are once again reminded of the skill of Howden that they are so gripped they accept this from the off.
DEATHGASM is a brilliant film with a fantastic script and really marks Jason Lei Howden as a talent to watch out for in the future.