Monday, 14 December 2015


Do you remember the days before The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and The Hobbit, when Peter Jackson wasn't a maker of blockbuster megahits but instead was known for hilarious and gorestained genre titles such as Bad Taste and (one of my favourite films) Braindead/Dead Alive.
These films cracked along at a frantic and exhilarating pace, barely pausing long enough to give you time to react to the rapid fire succession of gags and mutilations.
There has been little like those films in some time — until now.
A smash at Film4 FrightFest this year, Jason Lei Howden's Deathgasm has had audiences buzzing over its mixture of Heavy Metal and classic Kiwi Splatter.
Would it strike a chord with me? Or will it hit a bum note?
Read on...


Dir: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Nick Hoskins-Smith, Tim Foley, Delaney Tabron, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer, Stephen Ure, Cameron Rhodes

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here, but continue at your own risk.

Tormented teen Brodie (Cawthorne) finds his life upturned when his widowed mother has a breakdown and he is packed off live with his god fearing aunt and uncle (Rimmer and Moy) in a sleepy small town.
Already a keen metal head, Brodie's niche tastes make him something of an outcast, whose only friends are fellow misfits and Dungeons & Dragons nerds Dion (Berkley) and Giles (Cresswell). This wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that his bullying jock cousin David (Hoskins Smith) insists on making his life a misery, regularly dishing out beatings with his pack of cronies, even though his sweet and charming girlfriend Medina (Crossman) doesn't approve of his mean-spirited antics.
However, Brodie's life changes when he meets fellow metal aficionado (and baddest guy in town) Zakk (Blake). Bonding over their love of metal, the two decide to form their own band (eventually settling on the sidesplitting name Deathgasm) along with Dion and Giles.
The band aren't great, but at least they find something that gets them noticed — and one of the people that starts to pay attention to them is Medina.
When this provokes another violent altercation with David, Brodie meets up with Zakk and agrees to break into the house of reclusive former rocker Rikki Daggers (Ure). Within his home they find some arcane and ancient sheet music that they pocket — shortly before the violent henchmen of the sinister Vadin (Foley) arrive, thwarting their efforts to seize the manuscript for their shadowy leader. 
When the band play this mysterious Black Hymn they awaken an ancient evil, the demon Aeloth the Blind One, causing the townsfolk to become possessed by his dark and corrupting spirit. The demon's victims start to mutilate themselves and anybody unfortunate enough to cross their paths — leaving the band forced to fight for survival against their possessed assailants, Vadin's cult-like followers, including poisonous witch Shanna (Tabron) and find a way to stop Aeloth from manifesting and destroying the world...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I'll cut straight to the chase — I loved Deathgasm! It's an absolute riot, filled with humour, a great Metal soundtrack and lots and lots of gore. The story, by Howden, both celebrates and revels in the inherent silliness of smalltown Metalheads, without ever feeling like it's taking shots at the subject. Howden is obviously a big metal fan, distinguishing between the different types and packing the soundtrack with proper creditable metal tracks and artists such as Pathology, Axeslasher, Razorwyre, Beastwars, The Lair of the Minotaur, Elm Street and Bulletbelt. What's more, there are certain frames and images that will be very familiar to those of you who've seen your share of Metal album covers.
However, the humour isn't entirely reliant on familiarity with the subject material, it's as much about the posturing but ultimately hopeless characters. 
The dialogue and set-pieces are guaranteed to tickle and the talented cast deliver with aplomb. Cawthorne is superb as our sympathetic hero, managing to be just nerdy and frustrated at life enough to amuse but not so much as to annoy or rob the character of his likeability. You can't help but root for him to succeed, even if you find yourself doubting his ability to. He's a talented guy and I can't wait to see more of him.
Equally talented and portraying an entirely different kind of loser is Blake's Zakk. If Brodie is a guy who knows he's meant for better things but doesn't know how to make them happen, Zakk is a guy who thinks he's beating a world without realising that the joke's on him. He's a real rebel without a clue, whose selfishness and tough guy posturing makes for some brilliant gags at his own expense. Zakk should be a deplorable character but the likeable and handsome young Blake makes him thoroughly entertaining. If Cawthorne is this film's Luke Skywalker, Blake is definitely Deathgasm's Han Solo.
Outside of this central pair, the delightful Crossman makes for a fine love interest, plus she gets some moments of serious ass-kickery that are sure to win her plenty of fans. With acting chops to match her good looks, I think it's safe to say that she is going to go a very long way.
The very funny Berkley and Cresswell add excellent support (and both show marvellous comic timing), while Foley and Tabron make for a suitably OTT pair of villains. Foley's unhinged Vadin is especially hilarious, his twitching insanity and volatile, seething rage the source of a couple of very funny moments. Elsewhere Hoskins Smith's David gives us a more everyday sort of villain, the popular bully whose comeuppance you eagerly await. He's genuinely hateable, so credit must go to this very talented young man for hitting his target.
The rest of the cast also impress and it's wonderful to see Housebound's ultra-talented character actor Rhodes in an extended cameo as a similar uptight authority figure whose character arc takes a decidedly dark and messy detour. 
Yet as good as the cast and the humour are, there is one key aspect of Deathgasm that I know will win it plenty of fans — the truly spectacular gore and viscera on display. The effects work is FAR better than the film's modest budget might have you believe, with a jaw-dropping amount of severed limbs, flying entrails and gushing blood on display. Think the most splattery moments of The Evil Dead films and you're not even halfway there. With awesome practical effects from the skilled team of Storm McCracken and Tim Wells, plus some extremely cool visual effects work from a team that includes Darwin Go and Michael A Miller (who both count the epic The Hobbit among their film credits).
Gorehounds, this one is for you.
It isn't just the splatter that looks great, as director Howden uses clever framing and frenetic camerawork to amp up the hyperkinetic deranged energy that crackles throughout every scene.
With a great young cast, gallons of viscera and a skilled and assured director whose careful guidance makes sure that both look as great as they possibly can, Deathgasm is a feast for the eyes of horror fans everywhere.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): In all honesty, there's very little to find fault with in Deathgasm, so expect this section to be pretty short.
In case you hadn't guessed, humour and splatter are to the fore in the film, so if you're going in expecting any serious scares or frights, this is not that kind of horror film. However, it is a loud, fun and funny 'beer-and-pizza' film that I imagine will be great to watch with a group of appreciative friends. 
I suppose one problem that does crop up is that (outside of our three leads), there's not much of an arc for most of the characters. Howden has created plenty of very good characters, unfortunately the story doesn't do all of them justice. I'm sure plenty of viewers will praise this as the writer showing focus and a lean script, I just wish we could have had a little more time with some of the other interesting inhabitants of the rock 'n' roll ravaged small town.
Finally, even though the spectacular splatter effects could cause you to forget that this is a movie with a much lower budget than your average polished, big studio horror flick, the fact remains that it is a little rough around the edges in places. Personally, I thought this added to its indie, Metal charm, but if you prize production values over all else, Deathgasm is not for you.

THE VERDICT: In case you missed it earlier — I LOVED Deathgasm! It's Spinal Tap meets The Evil Dead and is one of the funniest, bloodiest horror flicks I've seen in a long, long time. It's a rare thing to find a film that you KNOW is going to become a cult favourite in years to come, but I guarantee that is what Howden has produced. Check it out as soon as you can, this is a horror-comedy that really rocks! 

Deathgasm will be released on DVD/Bluray on 29 February 2016. Preorder it here.

In the meantime, you can check out the film's official Facebook page here. Give it a Like while you're there too, show some love!

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