GRIMM & Chill: Deathgasm

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  • Title: Deathgasm
  • Director: Jason Lei Howden
  • Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman
  • Genre: comedy, horror
  • Publication date: March 14th, 2015
  • Runtime: 86 min
  • Production company: MPI Media Group, New Zealand Film Commission, Timpson Films

David Lei Howden wrote and directed this little movie in New Zealand back in 2014. Over the course of the next year, the movie was screened at multiple film festivals throughout the world. For its fifth anniversary, and with the recent release of Howden‘s second feature film (Guns Akimbo), now seems like the perfect opportunity to revisit his metal-inspired directorial debut.

The story takes place in New Zealand in a little town called Greypoint. Life isn’t going all too well for teenage metalhead Brodie (Milo Cawtorne). He’s forced to move in with his uncle and aunt, who are fundamentalist Christians. At school he’s treated like an outcast. The local jocks bully him on a regular basis. A relationship with the beautiful Medina (Kimberley Crossman) doesn’t seem to be within his reach. Only Dion and Giles, two friendly but boring geeks, are sympathetic towards him. Things finally brighten up for Brodie when he goes to a local record store and meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake). The two of them, together with Dion and Giles, decide to form a metal band named DEATHGASM.

Things go horribly wrong however, after Brodie and Zakk discover some mysterious sheets of music, known as The Black Hymn. By playing the music they unknowingly unleash an ancient evil upon Greypoint. Most of the town’s citizens become possessed by murderous demons, hell-bent on taking over the world. Now it’s up to Brodie and his friends to fight the demons and find a way to reverse the spell.

The concept for the movie was clearly inspired by the Evil Dead-franchise. There are copious amounts of blood and gore, mixed with puerile humor. One scene for example has Brodie and Zakk fighting off demons using a chainsaw and an assortment of sex toys. These horror and comedy tropes blend wonderfully well with the high school drama about a struggling teenage metalhead. The movie features multiple situations that are recognizable for metalheads, as well as inside jokes about metal culture. There is for example a touching scene where Brodie tries to convey his passion for metal to a skeptical but somewhat intrigued Medina. Another scene shows the band members dress up in corpse paint in the woods, only one of them is wearing KISS make up instead. The movie also features a variety of music from metal bands such as Emperor, Skull Fist, Elm Street, The Wretched End and Bulletbelt.

On paper Deathgasm sounds like an awesome movie, which it is to a certain extent. Unfortunately the final product doesn’t fully live up to its potential. The writing is somewhat uneven, the editing and the cinematography are sometimes shoddy and ugly to look at and the visual effects betray the film’s limited production budget. The main actors however are likable enough and the make up and practical effects are all top-notch. Story-wise, it’s all a bit puerile and dumb, but that’s also part of its appeal. If you’re a fan of gory splatter films like Bad Taste, Braindead or the Evil Dead-franchise, then you should definitely check out Deathgasm. It’s a flawed but fun little movie, best enjoyed over some beers with your metalhead buddies.

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