| January 5, 2016

New Zealand has a proud history of horror comedies, and in 2014 Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound became a new entry into that country’s canon of fun, inventive genre cinema. In 2015, two more horror comedies made a big impression on the international film scene: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows and Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm. While the former played with vampire film tropes and mixed them with quirky low-key humor to much critical acclaim, the latter was a hit at film festivals and got some midnight screenings at independent theaters but not a lot of attention otherwise. Now that Deathgasm has hit home video, hopefully it will find the cult following it deserves, because it’s a hell of a good time.

Aspiring metal guitarist Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) has landed in the worst possible place for a young man of his talents and interests: the home of his strict Christian aunt and uncle, and his popular jock cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith). David makes Brodie’s life a living hell at his new school, both because he’s just an awful person and because his girlfriend Medina (Kimberley Crossman) seems to like Brodie. Fortunately Brodie meets a couple of friends to start a band with, and when he meets Zakk (James Blake) at a record store, the two become fast friends over their mutual interest in metal and antisocial behavior. Zakk joins the band, christens it “Deathgasm,” and persuades Brodie to break into an abandoned house that is rumored to be the home of a legendary metal musician who has been missing for decades. They stumble upon some ancient sheet music that when played summons an ancient demon called The Blind One, and soon a plague of demonic possession is underway. Can Brodie and his friends stop the demon apocalypse, or is it too late to prevent all those awesome metal album covers from coming to life?

Unlike What We Do in the Shadows, Deathgasm is unapologetically a story about adolescent wish fulfillment, jettisoning careful character shadings and relationships between them for loud music and blunt humor. There is nothing subtle about this movie: It’s loud, fast, goofy, and gory. In other words, it’s pretty much exactly what you would imagine a heavy metal horror movie from New Zealand would be. The cast is great, the music is perfect, and there are fountains of gore. Regarding that last point, however, one major complaint that can be made about the film is its reliance on shoddy CGI effects. The practical effects throughout the film are fine, and they throw just how bad some of the CGI is into stark contrast. Ultimately this is not too much of a distraction, but it is worth noting. Overall, though, Deathgasm is a highly entertaining horror/comedy that is well worth a look for fans of horror, metal, and/or New Zealand.

Dark Sky Films released Deathgasm on Blu-ray and DVD on 5 January 2016. Special features include a commentary track by writer/director Jason Lei Howden, three behind-the-scenes featurettes running about five minutes each, “Deathgasm” music video, and trailers. Bizarrely, the film has been released under the title Heavy Metal Apocalypse at Wal-Mart stores, although whether this is just a cosmetic change to the cover art is not clear as of this writing.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

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