As someone who relishes new and unusual storytelling, it’s been great to see the recent boom of films coming out of New Zealand, a country that embraces and celebrates the unusual in ways most other places in the world just cannot. The latest Kiwi film to make its way Stateside is Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm, the ridiculously fun and bombastic celebration of horror and heavy metal that premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival last night. While the film may garner a lot of attention for it’s more over-the-top approach to gore, nudity and its clever use of sex toys, what makes Deathgasm so special is that the story itself is full of heart and features breakout performances from both Milo Cawthorne and Kimberley Crossman, who bring tons of infectious energy to the project.
In Deathgasm, we meet a lovable loser metal head by the name of Brodie (Cawthorne) who just can’t catch a break. He’s been forced to live with some disapproving family members after his mom goes on a nude meth bender, he doesn’t really fit in at his new school, and he falls instantaneously for the absolutely adorable Medina (Crossman), but suspects she doesn’t feel the same for him since Brodie isn’t the kind of guy she’d normally date. But one day, he finds a kindred soul in fellow metal fan Zakk (James Blake) and the pair form a band (named Deathgasm, as you may have guessed). Just when things are starting to look up for Brodie, he and his band mates accidentally summon a demon known as “The Blind One-” an evil entity that’s hell-bent on bringing about the end of days. Brodie is soon forced to get “brutal as fuck” (a popular and appropriate mantra for this film) in order to destroy the demon, save the world and hopefully win over the girl in the end.
It’s hard to watch a film like Deathgasm and not make comparisons to films like The Evil Dead, Bad Taste, Dead Alive or even shows like Metalocalypse and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. But in reality, the film takes enough leaps of its own to stand firmly on its own two metal-loving feet, feeling much more like an homage to the Kiwi spirit of splatterific horror comedy rather than a rip-off by any means. The story is gloriously low-brow, yet insightful (such a fine line to walk and yet, Howden makes it look easy here), and the comedic strokes throughout the script are absolute gold. The special effects in the film are beyond anything I’ve seen in the genre in many years and, for those of you out there who have ever wanted to see demons getting destroyed via some rather large dildos, then Deathgasm is 100 percent your joint.
Lately, the horror genre (in the US at least) seems to be taking things kind of seriously these days, which makes a movie like Deathgasm feel like a much-needed breath of fresh air. The story may be a familiar one, but Howden adds enough of his own touches to it to make it his own, the entire ensemble seems to be having a helluva ton of fun onscreen, the kills are wildly inventive and drenched in gore, and Deathgasm does a wonderful job of celebrating both the horror genre and heavy metal music without ever poking fun directly at them. If there’s one film out of SXSW that I’d recommend seeing on a big screen once it gets released, it would be Deathgasm. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had watching a horror movie in some time and I can’t wait to see what Howden does next as a filmmaker.