★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Wait, do demons recognize daylight savings?
Horror movies and heavy metal. Ever since guitars went electric it’s been a match made in… well, it’s been a perfect match. The same goes for horror/comedies and New Zealand. From the 3.8 minutes that I spent thinking about it, I’m pretty sure if you want a guaranteed winner of a horror/comedy you have to ask a Kiwi to make it. What We Do In The Shadows (2014), Housebound (2014), Black Sheep (2006), The Frighteners (1996); it’s as if New Zealand is covered in viscera, but everyone’s laughing.
Revisiting writer/director Jason Lei Howden’s debut feature-length splatterfest was just as much fun as when I saw it the first time. It starts with a bit of narration by our main character, Brodie [Milo Cawthorne; TV’s Power Rangers R.P.M. (2009)], a high school student who’s been forced to live with his highly religious aunt and uncle on account of his mum being tossed into a mental hospital as a meth addict and shopping mall Santa fondler. No one’s particularly happy with the living arrangement. Least of all his jock cousin, David [Nick Hoskins-Smith; The Brokenwood Mysteries (2014)], who bullies Brodie and his friends at every opportunity. The worst of it is that David is also dating Medina [Kimberley Crossman; TV’s Power Rangers Samurai (2012), The 60 Yard Line (2017)], Brodie’s high school crush.
Dion [Sam Berkley] and Giles [Daniel Cresswell; 3 Mile Limit (2014)] are Dungeons & Dragons nerds and pretty much Brodie’s only friends until he meets Zakk [James Blake] at the local record store. Zakk is just as much of a metal head as Brodie and the two become fast friends. Zakk is also an instigator of chaos pushing Brodie into pranks like mixing up a batch of “napalm” and burning HAIL SATIN into the lawn at their school. Needless to say, neither one of them is bucking for valedictorian at graduation.
Obviously, since any self-respecting metal fan can ‘play’ an instrument, the quartet form a band with Zakk on vocals. Equally as obvious, the first thing you do as a new band is come up with a name. Thus and therefore, DETHGASM (“All in caps because lower case is for pussies”).
Zakk also takes Brodie out to break into a house that supposedly belongs to Rikki Daggers [Stephen Ure; TV’s Ash vs Evil Dead (2016) and almost everything involving Hobbits], the retired lead singer of the boys’ favorite band, Haxan Sword. Surprise, surprise, it is Rikki Daggers’ house and he’s actually home, passed out on his couch clutching one of his band’s records. Ultimately, Zakk and Brodie wind up with the album and discover some ancient sheet music stuffed into the album cover for something called “The Black Hymn”.
As things progress, “The Black Hymn” turns out to be a musical ritual for summoning the King of Demons and, after a particularly bad day at school, Brodie decides it would be a good idea for DETHGASM to play it. The consequences are splatteriffic and goreful. People all over town are possessed by demons and begin indiscriminately killing the non-possessed. In an homage to Evil Dead 2 (1987), weapons are crafted and demons are fought by the DETHGASM crüe. Can the metal heads stop the ascension of the King of Demons? Is it considered “Rob Halford style” to play a song backwards? Are sex toys effective tools for battling evil?
You seriously need to go watch this movie to find out.
This is very much not a gateway horror film. While it is a comedy, the filmmakers spent a large percentage of their budget on fake blood and butcher shop leavings. As in, it’s very funny — especially if you ever went through a metal phase (or are still in one) — and the humor is quick, smart, and well-timed. However, it’s also an intestine stomping, heads split with an axe, death by engine block festival of gore. They did opt to emphasize some of the effects with extra CGI goopiness, but the majority of the effects and make-up are all good ol’ fashioned practical movie magic. A truly impressive feat for a low-budget film with so many special effects.
Low-budget though it may be, the actors put their hearts and souls into this film. Literally, in some cases. There might not be any Oscar winners here, but that’s not the point. Every single one of the primary actors had excellent comedic timing and did a great job. Supporting them behind the camera was cinematographer, Simon Raby, who’s been working at that job as well as Director of Photography since 1990 — including the Lord of the Rings trilogy — and was able to bring all kinds of fun shots, perspectives, and angles to Deathgasm. Wrap the whole sloppy mess in a suitably metal soundtrack and you’ve got another nearly perfect horror/comedy courtesy of the Kiwis.
I don’t tack this many stars on a movie’s rating lightly. If you’re a fan of the Evil Dead series or just enjoy New Zealand accents and don’t mind an occasional disembowelment, this is a must-see. Deathgasm is currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon so there’s really no excuse.
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