Deathgasm closed out the tenth annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and it brought the energy that seemed to be lacking through much of the fest. It also brought the filmmaker who traveled the furthest—Jason Lei Howden came all the way from New Zealand to introduce his film and speak with the crowd.
Brodie is a metal head and total loser. He befriends a couple of other losers and the town delinquent, Zakk, and together to form a metal band called Deathgasm. One evening, Zakk convinces Brodie to break into a house, which happens to belong to legendary rocker Rikki Daggers. There, they steal an album and discover some old sheet music. The music, when played, doesn't sound like much, but it has an effect on all who hear it. Specifically, it turns them into demons. The Deathgasm boys quickly learn they're in way over their heads—not only has the stolen song opened a demon portal, a group of demon acolytes is keen to keep the portal open and welcome their new demon overlord into the world.
Deathgasm began life as an entry in a government-sponsored film competition. Just one log line was submitted, as per the rules, and slowly as Deathgasm made its way through each successive round, the film grew and took shape. Nothing seems more natural than pairing metal and horror, and Deathgasm follows that love story to its natural, logical conclusion: Satanic apocalypse. It's everything those self-righteous, moral highroading evangelicals warned us about in the 80s and 90s!
Yes, it turns out metal is a gateway to Satanism, but Deathgasm's metal head leads aren't Satanists. They're heroes. The real bad guys are the adults who want to rule the world through dark magic. I'm not sure if Deathgasm means specifically to undermine authority, but it certainly has a strong non-conformist slant. In a conversation with Medina, a girl he likes, Brodie explains metal's appeal. He says when you're feeling depressed or upset by all the bullshit you have to put up with, metal helps you deal, empowering you to rise above it.
Deathgasm's pro-metal agenda really isn't the film's selling point, that's just a bonus. Rather, the film's success is largely predicated on its humour. Deathgasm is funny and outrageous, and takes itself just seriously enough for the audience to buy into the premise. It's not too clever or self-deprecating, nor does it rely heavily on irony for laughs and drama. I might even go so far as to describe Deathgasm as kind of innocent (there's your irony!), meaning the movie truly loves its subject matter and wants to do right by it. Brodie's even described by his bandmate as “lawful good,” while Zakk is “chaotic neutral” at worst.
If you're going to watch one metal-themed horror movie in your life, it should be either Trick or Treat or The Gate. But if you're going to watch more than one, add Deathgasm to the list.
Deathgasm was paired with Dead Air, a short film that perfectly fit with the night's heavy metal mentality. In it, radio DJs Adam and Eve play a record handed to them by a fan. Expecting a rock album, all that's broadcast is pounding static. But there's something buried in the “music” and it turns their listeners into murderous freaks. Unlike Lords of Salem, which drags a bit in the second half, Dead Air doesn't waste any time getting to the point. A strong set up and good pay off make up for a couple of awkward moments.
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