On the eleventh day of Halloween, a man in leather pants gave to me: Deathgasm (Jason Lei Howden, 2015)
Comin’ at ya from New Zealand is today’s entry, a horror-comedy decked out in studs and leather.
Here’s a quick summary:
Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is shipped to his conservative uncle’s house after his mother attempts to fellate a mall Santa after “going on a meth bender.” Brodie, a young metal enthusiast, finds himself struggling to fit into the cookie cutter community, but ultimately settles with Dn’D nerds Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell), as well as Zakk (James Blake), a dude with questionable morals with a taste for the illegal. One day, Zakk leads Brodie to a busted up old house, where the legendary metal superstar Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure) has been hiding out. Realizing that someone has followed the teens into the house, Daggers hurriedly throws a record at them, telling them to hide it and protect it with their lives. After the boys escape the house, they open the record to discover sheet music for an ancient song: The Black Hymn, which promises power and glory to the one who plays it. Determined to change his dismal life, Brodie translates and plays the Hymn, opening a doorway for Aeloth -a demon- to ascend. Faced with the end of the world as he knows it, Brodie must find a way to reverse the Black Hymn.
LOWER CASE IS FOR…
Deathgasm is a good time in nearly every respect. It’s a funny, over-the-top, immature, gory homage to angsty metal kids everywhere, but an homage that doesn’t take itself seriously. The plot is pretty basic – outcast teen falls for the preppy girl, shit goes down, – but it doesn’t feel terribly forced. Jason Lei Howard’s writing is superb- the movie has some great one liners, but is also riddled with drier, quieter humor. There are so many great moments in Deathgasm, not just lines.
Deathgasm, of course, balances out its clever moments with delightfully crude and immature ones. There are lots of boobies and schlongs and sex jokes. I shit you not, there’s even a scene where Zakk and Brodie have to fight off demon-ized individuals with sex toys, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
“do demons recognize daylight savings?”
One of the most successful aspects of the movies is the characters, and the actors behind them. While the writing was fantastic, Howden’s actors brought a sense of dimension to what otherwise could have been flat characters. Brodie is our delightfully awkward protagonist, equal parts defiance and tenderness. He’s incredibly likeable and feels real, and Milo Cawthorne plays him with skill. Of course, we also have Zakk, the walking metalhead stereotype/fuckboy/best friend. While Zakk is decidedly less likeable than Brodie, Blake’s comedic delivery is some of the best in the movie.
Medina is the only girl in the movie who gets real screen time (yikes) but I appreciated her still. Her relationship with Brodie is super typical – outcast and popular girl fall in love- but Kimberley Crossman infuses her with such authenticity that it’s hard not to like her. She truly cares for Brodie, and doesn’t really care what other people think about that; this girl goes for her man, society be damned. She also sharpens an axe while keeping her perfect pastel manicure intact, and if that isn’t my aesthetic I don’t know what is. I wish she was given a little more backstory and that her relationship with Brodie was a little more fleshed out, but she’s pretty great nonetheless.
Unfortunately Brodie’s two other friends, Dion and Giles, are kind of throwaway characters. They don’t get much characterization beyond “nerd”, and aren’t given much to work with. I sort of wish they were given more purpose beyond “body on screen,” as I saw a lot of comedic potential.
If you love it, let it go make fun of it
Deathgasm gets a lot of its comedy from poking fun at a lot of metal “tropes,” if you will. For instance, the holder of the Black Hymn is “Rikki Daggers,” whose characterization is a mashup of Ozzy Osbourne and Nikki Sixx. There are constant references to things being “brutal,” and Zakk and Brodie are constantly making the devil horn sign and referring to themselves as the “Brotherhood of Steel.” Shit, there’s even a low-quality corpse-paint “music video” in the woods.
Howden plays off of the often overly-crude/violent themes and band names in the metal world, as they seem too bizarre to be real. Of course, the joke is that he didn’t have to make any of it up: bands like “Anal Cunt” and albums like “Humanure” are in fact real.
But what surprised me most about Deathgasm is that it had a lot of heart.
And not just the one that gets ripped out. Deathgasm might make fun of metal in a lot of aspects, but it also loves it very, very much.
Metal (and music in general) is powerful. Brodie saw metal as a way to assert himself despite what he was going through; and Howden really puts this kid through the grinder. He has to live with his cousin, (his primary bully) and has lost his mother, for better or worse. He has no recourse, no method of expression. In a surprisingly sweet scene between Brodie and love interest Medina (a blonde, preppy popular girl) Brodie tries to explain to her what metal means to him. He tells her that the aggression behind metal, though sometimes off-putting, is a sign of camaraderie, “because somebody else knows the pain and rage you’re going through, you know.”
I mean, that’s the heart of this movie. Being a metalhead can be a “look”, but it’s about what it makes you feel, the place it takes you. At one point, Medina decides to listen to the metal CDs Brodie lent her- and she is transformed. Deathgasm takes us in Medina’s head as she listens to metal for the first time: suddenly she is an axe-wielding Viking goddess, with two semi-naked women clinging to her legs as though she were Conan the Barbarian. While this is similar to the stylized, hyper-sexual image of metal that Brodie experiences when he tunes into his music, the gist is the same. It’s power, it’s fantasy, it’s fun.
While part of me rolled my eyes at the naked women, the other half of me was totally with it. I remember the first song I ever listened to from my now-all-time-favorite band:
(this is a live version, sung by their newest vocalist, Floor jansen, who I ADORE)
I mean, I still get chills. The first time I listened to that as a middle schooler, after years of nothing but pop (which I still love!) it was like a door had opened. Even today, I still retain the sense of pure magic.
Anyway, you catch my drift. Deathgasm may be a parody of some aspects of metal, but it also really, really loves it.
THIS IS HALLOWEEN THEMED, THO
Okay so beyond all of the dick jokes and metal, there’s a shit-ton of gore in this movie. There is profuse blood-vomiting, people claw their eyes out, hearts get ripped from chests, rabbit vibrators get plunged into skulls- you know, horror shit. I mean, half of this movie’s budget had to have been spent on Karo syrup and food coloring. It’s excessive, but in the best way. I wouldn’t call this movie scary per-say, but it definitely puts the “dark” in “dark comedy.”
Deathgasm’s plot is loose, and some of the characters are regrettably forgettable. It’s full of jokes that most of us moved past once we turned 12, and replete with dongs and tits. But it’s funny as hell, surprisingly sweet, and a great time all around.
Featured image source: http://www.ew.com/sites/default/files/1441982084/deathgasm.jpg