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One of the most aptly named films in recent memory, Deathgasm is a giddy avalanche of gore and heavy metal-drenched mayhem that takes itself not even a tiny bit seriously. Making his feature directing debut after several years on the FX teams of such films as The Avengers and The Hobbit, New Zealander Jason Lei Howden delivers a pic that will play very well to genre buffs and good-humored embracers of metal’s cathartic power; Neil Sedaka fans need not apply.
Milo Cawthorne makes a sympathetic misfit as Brodie, who has been transplanted from a chaotic home (his meth-head mother was arrested for fellating a shopping-mall Santa, he proudly tells us in voiceover) to the small town abode of his God-fearing and very square aunt and uncle. Here he suffers that fate worse than death — being adopted by his new school’s two D&D nerds — until meeting Zakk (James Blake), a badass who’s as into terrifying guitar rock as he is.
Howden recently told an interviewer he wanted to reestablish the ties between horror movies and metal, and to cram his own flick with “REAL Metal: Brutal Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Black Metal, Doom Metal.” Non-connoisseurs among us may not realize that such an emphasis is not incompatible with comedy. Though Brodie and Zakk are sincere in their “Death to false metal!” creed, and want the band they start (with those D&D dudes) to rock, the movie half-mocks their enthusiasms by spilling the imagery of their imaginations out prodigiously on the screen.
As the scene-setting eases up, the newly formed metal quartet stumbles across sheet music owned by one of their rock idols. The ancient-looking manuscript is being sought by some very mean devotees of the occult, but before they learn this, the boys try playing it: This “Black Hymn,” we learn, is the kind of unholy incantation bands like Slayer and Dio could only dream of, one that is soon turning nearly everyone in town into a zombie-like demon and paving the way for the return of a godlike baddie called Aloth.
Literally, all hell is breaking loose, making the usual pettiness of inter-band politics — especially with regard to Miranda (Kimberley Crossman), a classmate who sets Brodie’s loins aquiver — significantly more heated. Though the movie doesn’t sustain its opening momentum throughout, it keeps a lively pace as its five teens struggle to reverse their black magic before Aloth uses New Zealand as a stepping-stone to global dominion. Happily, this lets them decapitate and saw their way through quite a lot of possessed locals who were bullying them just days ago.
Certain scenes, especially those involving chainsaws, approach the antic pitch of early Sam Raimi, but even when he’s not delivering on the comedy front Howden provides much for splatter-hounds to appreciate. And the soundtrack is the stuff of adolescent wish-fulfillment, full of head-thrashing bombast that suits the pentagrams and portentous Latin texts perfectly. Even viewers who slinked through high school avoiding the wrath of their local metalheads may find themselves making the sign of the horns in solidarity.
Production company: Timson Films
Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Delaney Tabron, Stephen Ure
Director-Screenwriter: Jason Lei Howden
Producers: Andrew Beattie, Sarah Howden, Morgan Leigh Stewart
Executive producers: Hamza Ali, Ant Timpson
Director of photography: Simon Raby
Production designer-Costume designer: Jane Bucknell
Editors: Jeff Hurrell, Gareth Van Niekerk
Music: Chris van der Geer, Joost Langeveld
No rating, 86 minutes
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