Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Sydney Film Festival: Deathgasm

"Death to false Metal!"

In a suburban neighbourhood in a New Zealand country town, in the garage of his conservative extended family, Heavy Metal purist and social pariah Brody (with his mates fellow purist Zakk and nerds Dion and Giles) forges garage metal band DEATHGASM and plays Black Sabbath-style tri-tone Doom Metal based off of sheet music he and Zakk found in an abandoned house. The sheet music is in fact an ancient demon summoning text and within moments local residents who hear the band play begin spewing bile and violently transform into flesh-craving demons. Now, DEATHGASM and Brody’s crush Medina must battle the King of Demons to halt a brutal demonic invasion of their town.

Deathgasm exists as a cross-roads between a classic high-school outcast/teen angst fable, B-movie horror comedy and fantastical Heavy Metal love letter, all the while feeling like it was meant to be made twenty-five years ago. The entire taste of the film, from writing to production design is straight out of the late 80’s, with demin vests, CD swapping ,Braindead/Evil Dead-style demon-zombies, clich├ęd bully encounters and even a VHS music video home movie. But Deathgasm works best as a sub-cultural comedy, whether it’s a spiked leather-clad, corpse-painted Brody on a cute ice-cream picnic with the classically pretty Medina, Zakk and Brody killing demonic parents with sex toys or a simple throwaway sight gag with a Poison vinyl, the film-makers sense of subject and timing is excellent. Often these jokes come caked in blood and gore, and the film contains some excellent stylistic flourishes, chaotic and bloody fight scenes, fantastic renderings of the joy of Metal, and even scene transistions, Deathgasm fits neatly into cult genre film territory (the razor-wire Whipper-Snipper Braindead homage is a quiet nod to the genre and location) though isn’t cinematically interesting enough to really leave an impact. In opposition to the great comedy and gleeful gore, the angst-ridden outcast story dilutes the on-point comedy (though obviously comes from personal experience), as does some wasted characters and narrative plot-holes that are likely the result of a brutal edit. Ultimately it’s a rough and fun ride that’s aimed squarely at diehard metalheads and curious teenagers, but well-made and funny enough to be enjoyed though likely rarely loved.

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