Deathgasm began life as a competition entry. The second year of the New Zealand “Make My Movie” competition specialised in horror and the winning pitch was from Weta digital effects man Jason Lei Howden. As a result, he had $200,000 and a shooting schedule of less than three weeks to make it. The results are a minor miracle.
Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is a teen metal-head, forced to live with his religious Uncle and Aunt and his douche-bag cousin. To escape it all, he forms a garage band (named Deathgasm, of course) with his friends, including loose cannon Zakk (James Blake). When the group find some old sheet music when pursuing a local retired metaller, they decide to play it.
Little do they know that this is The Black Hymn, a fabled piece that creates a demonic plague, ultimately summoning a being known as The Blind One. As carnage erupts in their Kiwi small town, Deathgasm must somehow find a way to undo everything…through the power of metal.
Deathgasm is a film that gleefully wears its influences on its sleeve. This is a movie that knows what it is – from the Evil Dead set-up and monsters to the Bad Taste-style splatter. Hell, one character even WEARS a Bad Taste t-shirt. It is pure splatstick, where the jokes fly as fast as the blood.
Most surprising for a film which such a minuscule budget (that dollar figure quoted above is New Zealand dollars), is that it looks terrific. It also sprawls over numerous locations and plenty of characters. This is not the “three people in a locked room” approach to low-budget horror, this is ambitious…and pulls it off.
The energy is high and infectious, keeping a knowing eye on things so that even when it gets ridiculous, the audience is on board. The high point (or low point, depending on your point of view) is a battle with zombie demons using only…sex toys. It’s silly, but works.
Unfortunately, not all laughs land. Some are inspired (a villain orders his henchmen to “do it again” after a clumsy decapitation so they awkwardly act out doing it again) and some just fall flat. The acting is partially to blame – while Cawthorne is excellent in the lead role, some of the supporting cast (most notably Shortland Street‘s Kimberley Crossman as the axe-wielding love interest) manage to make every scripted line sound…like a scripted line.
The script is clunky in a lot of places and is definitely the weak point amongst all of the goo and fun. Perhaps a testament to the speed in which the development went from pitch to production, but the result is quite tight, not outstaying its welcome at a breezy 83 minutes.
A fun throwback to a less dour time of horror filmmaking, Deathgasm is even better with friends and while some awkwardness holds it back from greatness, it is a cut above most horror/comedies and is well worth a look.
Included on the disc are a couple of interviews with director Jason Lei Howden for a total of around 30 minutes. He is immensely likeable, comes across as genuinely thrilled to have had his opportunity and is very honest about his influences. He tells a variety of stories (such as Crossman flying back from Los Angeles on her own dime to be in the film) and even teases the possibility of a sequel.
The other extra of note is a look at the effects of Deathgasm. Given it is directed by a digital FX professional, it is surprising to see that the work was almost completely practical. Even the, uh, fake penis.