New Zealand genre filmmaking, especially in the field of horror/black comedies, has proven to be fertile ground for high quality offerings in recent times. In the last couple of years alone, we’ve seen Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound (2014) , followed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s hilarious vampire faux-documentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014), and best of all, a retro gore-fest in the shape of the deliriously over-the-top Turbo Kid (2015), the work of a trio of ex-pat French directors.
Now we have Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm (2015), another blood-soaked, wickedly humorous intermingling of heavy metal, demon-summoning, and geek’s revenge. After pitching his ideas for a horror film to a competition in New Zealand, Howden’s treatment for Deathgasm was chosen as the winner, giving him 9 days to produce an actual screenplay. The result is a film that artfully trades in both crude and witty humour as a young metalhead Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is forced to live with some unaccommodating relatives in small town Grey Point. Beaten senseless at school, with his own cousin leading the boot-kicking, Brodie heads to the local record store where he hooks up with the only other leather-clad outsider in town, the imposing Zakk (James Blake).
Together they form a band, Deathgasm, with a couple of geeks from school, Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell), pitched in to make up the numbers. After they track down the home of gone-to-ground metal legend Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure), he offers them sheet music – inside a Rick Astley record! -just before getting the chop from an assassin representing a group after the very same sheet music. Zakk suggests they use the offering as the basis of a new Deathgasm song but the music has more power than they can imagine. It’s actually a Black Hymn that summons forth an ancient demon hoping to take human form and conquer the world. Soon the entire town becomes infected, leaving the band and hot chick Medina (Kimberley Crossman) to fend for themselves as they try to break the curse – ironically playing the same music backwards, perhaps?
Deathgasm has much going for it beside its gung-ho spirit and inspired, blood-spattered set-pieces, in which everything from lawn-trimmers and sex toys are used to keep the possessed at bay. The performances are pitch-perfect, making the most out of every increasingly outrageous comedic scenario. Full credit to Howden for a screenplay that’s regularly littered with genuinely funny one-liners and visual gags, meaning that there’s no slackening off of interest. The cast all pitch in spiritedly as the mayhem is ratcheted up, with the gutsy Crossman giving her all, especially when she gets an axe in her hand. Deathgasm is an unpretentious blast, a free-form comedy that proudly wears its influences as a badge of honour but is executed with an authentic, irreverent comedic tone very particular to this part of the world.
Deathgasm is now out on DVD from Madman Entertainment. More details can be found HERE.