Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #477
Number of Views: One
Release Date: March 15, 2015 (SXSW)
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Running Time: 86 minutes
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Producers: Ant Timpson, Andrew Beattie, Morgan Leigh Stewart, Sarah Howden, Hamza Ali
Screenplay: Jason Lei Howden
Special Effects: Andrew Beattie, Storm McCracken, Tim Wells
Visual Effects: Darwin Go, Johnathan Guest, Michael A. Miller
Cinematography: Simon Raby
Score: Chris van de Geer, Joost Langeveld
Editing: Jeff Hurrell
Studios: Metalheads, Timpson Films, New Zealand Film Commission, MPI Media Group
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Stars: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure, Tim Foley, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Nick Hoskins-Smith, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer, Delaney Tabron, Erroll Shand, Kate Elliott, Aaron McGregor, Andrew Laing, Tim Foley, Cameron Rhodes
Suggested Audio Candy
 Emperor “Inno A Satana”
 Skull Fist “Hour To Live”
 Bulletbelt “Deathgasm”
There are few things more devastating than the power of metal. However, for as much as grue and metal go together like Gump and Jenny, there have been precious few movies which share this blackened synergy. You would be required to travel back to 1986 and Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat for the last true horror headbanger and, while undoubtedly good fun, it was surprisingly stingy on deep red. Enter New Zealander Jason Lei Howden, who is looking to crank the amp some with his labor of love, Deathgasm, and rival fellow countryman Peter Jackson for outlandish splatter in the process. If you’re standing in the splash zone then I would advise you stand well back. Unless you’re metal, in which case, just drink it the fuck in as you may well have found your new favorite movie.
Howden is perhaps best known for his VFX work and his credits include the likes of Avengers Assemble and Jackson’s own The Hobbit trilogy. Until now he has only been responsible for directing shorts and music videos but, after entering Deathgasm into New Zealand’s Make My Movie competition based initially on little more than poster and brief synopsis and ultimately being crowned victorious, he decided the time was right to make a little noise himself. Amusingly, the Film Commission of New Zealand put up part of the funding themselves which means that taxpayers’ money is responsible for making this splatter sensation a reality. Now if that doesn’t show the power of metal, then I don’t know what does.
I had the brutal pleasure of catching Howden’s movie at the forbidden screening of this year’s Paris International Fantastic Film Festival and couldn’t have picked a better setting to pop my Deathgasm cherry. The very moment the wildly inventive front credits commenced, the auditorium was awash with devil horn salutes and a few moments later, as my nostrils were greeted by the scent of unwashed armpits, I knew I was amongst true metal heads. While I know the difference between Cannibal Corpse and Cattle Decapitation, I wouldn’t consider myself a true headbanger. Indeed, had I mentioned my fondness for Ladytron then I would likely have been torn limb from bloody limb by the baying crowd. So I kept my head down as best as I could and just enjoyed the matinée.
The clue really is in the title here. And what a title. If you’re looking for “death” then look no further and I’m fairly assured that the dude in front came involuntarily in his tight black denims by around the five-minute mark so that’s the “gasm” side of things sewn up also. Rarely has there been such a marriage made in hell and Deathgasm could never be accused of skimping on either front so false advertising need not be of concern. Moreover, Howden is entirely disinterested in filling the screen with computer effects despite his background, and sticks to practical splatter all the way. It is plain to see that he watched John Carpenter’s The Thing as a spotty teenager sporting wide-eyes and boner and that makes two of us.
It’s also abundantly clear that he loves his metal and there is more than enough guitar riffing, corpse painting, and raised aloft devil horns to suggest he is entering into a second childhood of sorts. I would say God bless his soul but, on this evidence, it is probable that Beelzebub will have already gotten there first. Deathgasm may well be the ultimate headbanger’s ball and its appeal spreads far wider than simply being “one for the metal heads”. If you like a little blood in your popcorn and aren’t averse to a dash of semen for additional saltiness, then you’ll find plenty to crunch down on here. More critically, you’ll also be introduced to a bunch of likeable characters and a sweetly observed love story. Turbo Kid it is not and the blossoming affections of Brodie and Medina are no match for The Kid and Apple’s squeaky clean endearment but the sentiment still stands.
After his meth-huffing mother lands herself in the nuthouse, teenage outcast Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is sent packing to the conservative Suburban town of Greypoint to live with his God-fearing gatekeepers, Uncle Albert (Colin Moy) and Aunt Mary (Jodie Rimmer). Before he can so much as set down his bags, he is racking up the Hail Marys and, needless to say, they don’t approve of his lifestyle choices while his bullish meat-head cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith) ensures that his transition at school is far less than smooth. However, it isn’t long before Brodie finds some allies in the form of role-playing pariahs Dion (Sam Berkley) & Giles (Daniel Cresswell) and free-spirited wild child Zakk (James Blake) et voila… DEATHGASM are born.
However, it’s not all biting the heads off livestock and fist fucking conformity as Brodie has his eye on cute blonde bunny Medina (Kimberley Crossman) and, against all odds, he manages to turn her head as opposed to stomach. There is a glorious scene as the pair engage in an awkward getting-to-know-you moment, sharing ice creams and musical preferences on a park bench. While she is most certainly NOT metal and remains unconvinced that Anal Cunt will become her new favorite band, Medina does agree to a little light introduction and soon afterwards this happens.
It’s right what they say. Once you go black, you never go back. It turns out that beneath her fragrant pussy lurks a shadowy hell cat just bursting to escape and romance becomes a distinct possibility for the gangly rocker. This infuriates Brodie’s nemesis David who lets him know in no uncertain terms that a dick punch for every day in the calendar year awaits should he attempt to further intercept his main squeeze. In addition, cracks begin to show with blood brother Zakk as he has his own designs on Medina and a thousand creamy sailors looking to walk her plank the very moment Brodie’s back is turned. Then there’s the tiny matter of Aeloth, The Blind One and this is the last dude you want to summon.
After chancing upon some sheet music penned by aging metal legend Ricky Daggers (Stephen Ure) bearing the dubious title “the black hymn” and alerting the attention of Aeon (Andrew Laing) and his demon-worshiping henchmen, the budding rockers engage in a little recital in Brodie’s uncle’s garage and inadvertently awaken an ancient demon, hellbent on his second coming. This, in turn, causes Greypoint’s inhabitants to begin leaking sanguine fluids from every available orifice and turn into cantankerous hell spawn. Right about here, the shit hits the proverbial fan in mid-oscillation, and Howden cranks the volume up to eleven.
Fans of Australasian splatter classics Bad Taste and Braindead, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of The Dead, and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead should have some idea to where things are headed as Deathgasm throws them all in the blender and whips up a deep red milkshake which goes down every bit as smoothly. Medina locates her inner metal head and we discover that wielding an axe actually comes naturally to her, Brodie rediscovers his testicles, Zakk continues to think of himself first and everyone around him much later, while Dion and Giles dream of Quidditch and Dungeons & Dragons respectively, tagging along for the sheer helluvit. Throw in some KISS-style corpse paint and a pair of Hulk smash fists and you have yourself some pretty magnanimous metal mayhem.
By the time Deathgasm reached its fitting hell-on-Earth climax, the entire auditorium were off their feet and with fairly good reason. What Howden has achieved here is beyond commendable as his unruly splatter fest ticks the boxes for horror aficionados and metal heads alike, while still remaining accessible to those searching for a little lighthearted escapism. It remains to be seen how it will fare in the long-term although, with plans for Deathgasm 2 already on the table, the signs are particularly encouraging. As for Howden, he may have gifted us a fitting love letter to his own childhood, but he may also have provided the soundtrack for a million others. Long live metal (and Ladytron).
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: I guess the best way to start would be to report that Deathgasm more than lives up to its hyper-catchy mantle. Like the spiritual successor to Braindead, this throws all manner of blood, sinew, snot, and semen at the screen and does so with impish abandon. To offer an idea of the hardware on exhibit, weapons include chainsaws, circular saw blades, drills, axes, baseball bats, katanas, plummeting car engines, double-ended dildos, vibrators, and rectal love beads. You want Raining Blood? You got it. As for any proposed “gasms”, there are plentiful perky breasts and swinging schlongs to keep up that end of the deal.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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