When listing off the most influential horror movies of all time, I don’t think anyone would argue with Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead being put right up there with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Both films are responsible for spawning so many cool movies – and bad ones, but let’s focus on the good here – across so many generations, and in the grand tradition of Peter Jackson gems like Bad Taste and Dead Alive comes Jason Lei Howden’s feature debut, Deathgasm.
Or, if you purchase it from Walmart: Heavy Metal Apocalypse.
Deathgasm tells the story of Brodie, a death metal aficionado who doesn’t have many friends in his small town. But things take a turn for both the better and the worse when Brodie meets Zakk at the local record shop, who he immediately recognizes as his hetero lifemate and brother in metal. Shortly after forming a band – because of course – the teenage friends unwittingly summon an evil demon by playing an ancient tune, and they soon realize the fate of humanity rests in their hands.
So many mediocre horror-comedies have been released in recent years that I’ve admittedly become soured on the idea of horror-comedies altogether. But when movies like Deathgasm come along, they remind you just how much fun the fusion of horror and comedy can – and should – be. Running a brisk 82-minutes long, Jason Lei Howden’s debut on the horror scene is nothing if not fast-paced and supremely entertaining, blasting across the screen like a blood-soaked, heavy metal music video that never – not even for a second – overstays its welcome or wears out its particular set of charms.
And Deathgasm, I’m happy to report, is absolutely loaded with charm. Brodie and Zakk are two characters worth rooting for and caring about, and their bonded-by-metal friendship calls to mind memorable movie bromances like Shaun/Ed, Wayne/Garth, and Bodhi/Utah – Point Break, in case you hadn’t noticed, is pretty goddamn metal. The film even has a love interest in the form of Medina, and though I won’t spoil which of the metal bros she ends up laying with, what I will say is that you might be surprised by how sweet that romantic subplot turns out to be. Suffice to say, the level of “genuinely adorable” rises much higher than you’d ever expect a movie featuring weaponized sex toys to get.
Yea. I said it. And yea. They’re in there.
Going into Deathgasm, I didn’t know a lick about Jason Lei Howden, but coming out of it, it’s quite clear that he’s a big time fan of the horror films Peter Jackson made early in his career. In doing a little research, I was not surprised in the least to learn that Howden hails from Jackson’s home country of New Zealand and in fact worked in the visual effects departments on many of Jackson’s films, as Deathgasm is, at the end of the day, a big ole love letter to Jackson’s early output – one character even sports a Bad Taste t-shirt, just in case you weren’t sure what Howden was going for.
What I’m of course getting at is that Deathgasm is as gory as can be, and the fun Howden has with devising clever ways to put his team’s makeup effects skills to good use is downright palpable. Practical effects are the name of the game in this one and they’re over-the-top in all the right ways, making the film very much feel like it belongs alongside classics such as Dead Alive and The Evil Dead. Many have tried to tap into that pitch-perfect blend of horror and comedy but most end up failing, and in that department, Howden’s inaugural outing scores an admirably high grade.
You get the sense, watching Deathgasm, that you’re watching something a group of friends had a whole lot of fun making together, and that makes it so much fun to watch. In that sense, it’s a celebration not just of heavy metal and horror movies, but of the indie filmmaking spirit as a whole. It’s the sort of film that’s almost instantly iconic and begging for cult classic status, and I have no doubt that Deathgasm – though it may not reinvent any wheels – will inspire budding horror filmmakers the same way Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi did back in the ’80s and early ’90s.
Deathgasm is the real deal. And it may very well be the most entertaining horror-comedy of 2015.
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