(A.k.a. HEAVY METAL APOCALYPSE)
"Metal is the way!"
Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) narrates, revealing from the start that he's one of life's young misfits. He tells of how he was rendered homeless in his teens when his mother went potty and "tried to suck off a Santa Claus in a crowded mall". Farmed off to live with his prudish Christian aunt Mary (Jodie Rimmer) and uncle Albert (Colin Moy), they are as horrified by his greasy metalhead fashion as he is by their clean-cut stance and their jock son, his bully of a cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith).
Reluctantly enlisted into the local school, Brodie soon learns of David's penchant for roughing up the geeks. While rescuing a couple of said nerds from David's torments, Brodie finds himself with two new friends: Giles (Daniel Cresswell) and Dion (Sam Berkley). After suffering their idea of fun in the form of playing board games, Brodie has a chance meeting with fellow metal lover Zakk (James Blake) in a local record store and has a proposition for his three pals: to form their own band. If nothing else, Brodie believes this may bring him to the attention of hot blonde classmate Medina (Kimberley Crossman). Only, she also happens to be David's girlfriend...
And so, they begin practicing in a garage. Zakk is the badass bassist/vocalist. Dion has a basic grasp of playing keyboards. Giles gets to thump his frustrations out on the drums. And Brodie? Well, he's told them all he can play guitar. Truth is, he plays guitar ... badly. But he'll learn. Anyway, a bigger issue needs resolving first: naming the band. Maggot Sperm and Toothed Vagina are two suggestions put forward, but Zakk's input wins - and the band becomes Deathgasm.
A short while later, Zakk takes Brodie on a surprise excursion one afternoon, which involves the pair of them breaking into a seemingly derelict house. It happens to be the home of their idol, devil-worshipping rock star Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure). They find Rikki sleeping rough there, but flee quickly when a sinister suited man also arrives - he's part of a cult who have been searching for Rikki, or rather for a music sheet which also doubles as an ancient Latin spell summoning a demon in return for fame and fortune.
Unbeknownst to them, Zakk and Brodie are now in possession of said spell. Believing it to be an unwritten song by Rikki's former band, they set about learning how to play it. Which, of course, is likely to awaken all manner of evil.
All the while, Brodie's relationship with Medina blossoms, David becomes increasingly disgruntled by his cousin's presence and Deathgasm's self-made promo videos continue to be cringe-inducingly awful. Oh, and don't forget about the strange cult who are still searching for the spell...
Heavy metal and horror have been merged before. Films like TERROR ON TOUR, BLACK ROSES, HARD ROCK ZOMBIES all refer, along with - of course - TRICK OR TREAT. The latter even went so far as to featuring supporting performances from Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss' Gene Simmons.
But DEATHGASM goes several steps further, in fully exploring the love of metal in a witty, occasionally self-deprecating but always sincere and accurate manner. A myriad of bands are referenced throughout (Anal Cunt, Autopsy, Trivium, Death, Cannibal Corpse, King Diamond etc) and everything - fashions, music, attitudes, reactions from staid onlookers - is spot-on throughout.
More than that, DEATHGASM is a great example of how to fuse comedy with horror. The marriage is often attempted but not many get the mix right. If any country can boast a healthy track record at doing so in recent years, it's New Zealand (HOUSEBOUND; WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS; BLACK SHEEP etc), and writer-director Jason Lei Howden's labour-of-love feature debut is one of the best Kiwi efforts yet.
Likeable characters, winning performances, a script that is genuinely funny, and winningly bloody effects from Main Reactor (the guys behind the EVIL DEAD remake's gore) all combine to make this fast-paced, heartfelt and thoroughly engaging romp one of the most entertaining genre hits in recent memory. Some of the righteously gory sight gags are the most enjoyably OTT the screen has seen since BRAINDEAD (the product of another demented Kiwi imagination, the young Peter Jackson).
You don't have to be a metalhead to "get it". You simply need a sense of fun and good taste.
DEATHGASM comes to the UK on DVD and limited edition blu-ray, courtesy of Studiocanal. We were furnished with a screener copy of the latter for review purposes.
The film is uncut and looks spectacular in 1080p HD. Correctly framed at 2.35:1, the transfer - presented as an MPEG4-AVC file - boasts pin-sharp, spiffy clean images throughout. Colours are consistently bold and true, blacks are solid and noise-free.
English audio comes in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options. Both offer excellent playback services, especially the latter with its heavier bass and intelligent channel separation. Right from the start, from the searing sound design during the animated opening titles sequence, you know this is going to be a particularly impressive surround mix. And it is.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.
Regrettably, there are no bonus features. This is a shame as I'm aware of at least two behind-the-scenes featurettes (one focusing on the cast, another on the special effects) which exist.
DEATHGASM is hugely enjoyable entertainment and looks great on blu-ray. Recommended.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Studiocanal|
|see main review|