Movies · Reviews

Deathgasm Is Darker Than Eating Ice Cream in the Park on a Beautiful Sunny Day

By  · Published on May 2nd, 2015



Editor’s note: Our review of Deathgasm originally ran during SXSW 2015, but we’re re-posting it now as the film plays this year’s Stanley Film Fest.

Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is a strange stranger in a strange land. Forced by familial circumstance to live with conservative cousins in suburban New Zealand, Brodie immediately stands out thanks to his love of heavy metal music. He finds a compatriot in Zakk (James Blake), a fellow metal-head disinterested in the opinions of others, and along with a pair of all together different outcasts (they’re more Gary Gygax than Anthrax) the new friends form a band destined to shake the bowels of hell.

Practice sessions reveal a minor gap between Brodie’s self-purported guitar skills and reality, but his enthusiasm almost makes up for it. Well, that and his discovery of an unrecorded song from the reclusive lead singer of the legendary death metal band Haxensword. They quickly discover why it was never recorded – everyone in earshot of the music is turned into a demonic, flesh-eating hellspawn – and soon the foursome, along with a perky blond love interest cum ass-kicking female warrior named Medina (Kimberly Crossman), are dildo-deep in a battle for their lives.

Deathgasm is a bloody, head-banging ball of fun, gore and soul-shaking music, and fans of films like Dead Alive and Evil Dead will find a lot to love in its embrace of splattery shenanigans and the idea that staying true to yourself might someday save the world.

Writer/director Jason Lei Howden has been helping to create the imagined worlds of others since 2010 as a digital effects artist on films as diverse and high-profile as The Hobbit and The Great Gatsby, but for his feature debut he’s gone in a gloriously different direction. Deathgasm features a handful of CG enhancements, but the bloody meat of the film is actual meat. Okay, that’s a lie, but the majority of the gore effects are practical and leave the townspeople resembling bipedal flesh slabs prone to being messily stabbed, sliced, ripped, gouged, burned and skewered with sex toys.

Howden’s script finds its heart in Cawthorne’s portrayal of the sweetly hardcore Brodie who projects the aura of a loner while actually being quite fond of other people. His misguided belief that he should actually be more metal is what first cracks open the door to hell, but happily the film puts him back on the right path without backtracking over what makes heavy metal so appealing to him in the first place. It respects the music, but more than that it respects the people who are drawn to it. Poison fans, by contrast, can go fuck themselves.

The rest of the cast does mostly solid work, but Crossman deserves a special shout-out for turning her “hot chick” sidekick into something far more. Howden’s script sets the stage of course, but when Medina goes from cliched love interest to head-splitting warrior it’s Crossman’s energy and wide-eyed conviction that sells the character.

This is a movie made for midnight screenings, but while its greatest strengths are the laughs and over-the-top gore-drenched action scenes some viewers will be surprised to find a considerable heart beating beneath the grue. Themes of family and friendship are woven throughout, but just as important is the importance of being who you want to be, who you need to be – who you are – in spite of society’s pressures. We’re all people, but that doesn’t mean we’re all the same.

There are some less fun issues here and there including gags that fall flat and digital effects that highlight the film’s low budget, and while it only clocks in around ninety minutes it still seems longer than it needs to be. The love triangle between Brodie, Zakk and Medina is the biggest culprit as it’s little more than downtime filler. It’s cliched, unearned and lazily resolved, and the jealousy subplot just doesn’t work dramatically when satanic death-dealers are literally clawing at the door to get in and tear our heroes apart.

Deathgasm hits some rough spots, but they’re brief and mostly overshadowed by arterial sprays of crimson joy. If you like your gore messy, your laughter frequent and your music loud you’ll want to remember the name Deathgasm. As if you could ever forget it.

The Upside: Fun sense of humor; gloriously bloody practical effects; surprising heart at its center; knows its audience and gives no shits about the rest of you

The Downside: Noticeable filler as the film tries to justify its length; some jokes go too broad and fall flat; sketchy digital effects

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.