MIFF 2015 – Deathgasm (2015)

Director: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Sam Berkley, Kimberley Crossman, Daniel Cresswell, Delaney Tabron

Metal head Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is forced to move to a country town after his mother is hospitalised and immediately feels isolated due to living with his churchy uncle and aunty and his cousin who treats him shitty.

It’s not all bad, he does meet Giles (Daniel Cresswell) and Dion (Sam Berkley) and at the local metal record store he makes friends with Zakk (James Blake) and they become metal brothers and form a band named Deathgasm.

Brodie has his eye on Median (Kimberley Crossman) who turns out to be already going out with his cousin, causing him much grief as he is very possessive and can’t stand anyone even looking at her.

The story really gets going when Zakk asks Brodie to go to a supposedly abandoned house where a legendary death metal performer is hiding out with the pages of a black metal hymn, they escape but the people looking for the hymn are still looking for it.

Having gotten the pages and ignoring the fact that they are adorned with Latin and pictures of Satanic rituals they decide to try and play the hymn, only stopping when he gets a bad feeling about it.

Brodie manages to translate the Latin on the pages, but due to being beaten up by his cousin and having all his stuff trashed he decides to go through with playing the full song, which is when all hell breaks loose.

The director who attended the screening read out a review of his film from twitter saying that the film was nothing but teenagers wanking each other off. “Aww! That was going to be my next movie, duelling palms!”

From the Q&A the director had a background in visual effects but decided to go the practical route as it was more visceral and has more of a presence when there were actual things that were there.

This did lead to problems for things such as the blood pump they used had to be manually pressurised and it took 20 minutes each time. A lot of the shots are the only one they got as they did not have the time. The movie was shot over 20 days of 10 hour shoots.

It was funded with not very much money, only $200,000 NZ as part of a competition to make a horror film when he submitted five different ideas and this is the one that was accepted. He hoped that it would not be as it was going to be the hardest to shoot.

Kimberley Crossman paid her own way to fly to New Zealand to be part of the film, she is one of the more famous actors involved in the film.

There were some issues with the casting, a week before shooting there was a totally different cast. The director did not agree with having an actor play Zakk who was in his mid 30s and had receding hair however.

At the moment the director want to make a more serious horror film, but all the offers he has had are for another movie like Deathgasm. He does hope to make a sequel to the movie in the future with more of a budget and much more blood and gore.
Some of the gore came from a metal musician in New Zealand who wanted to have a gore fountain in his front yard, but could not get it to work. Also the collection of metal t-shirts worn in the film are from the same person.

The drawings in Brodie’s notebook were made by a production designer and they do still have the book around somewhere.
There are 30 songs on the soundtrack from metal bands in New Zealand, Australia and overseas. The director says it is the most he has heard in any movie of its type. There will be a double album release of all the songs later in the year. They selected the songs to use by what would fit the scene.

The film was inspired by 80s horror films such as Rock’n’Roll Nightmare, Bad Taste (the director first saw it when he was 9) and other kids vs baddies films such as Goonies and Monster Squad.

The lightning effects were produced by a Melbourne visual effects company and are a tribute to those used in older movies. Also I remember Highlander having a lot of them.

If you are a fan of horror movies and metal music I would recommend this movie or even if you just like funny movies I would recommend this movie. It is very gory in parts but there is a lot of humour to go along with it.

Being a first time script writer most of the jokes are what you would expect and it does feel like teenage boy wish fulfilment but that is part of its charm.

I did get to see the audience going out from the 808 documentary before and then all the metal heads coming in to watch this movie at the festival, there were very few people who watched both.

With horror undergoing a renaissance it is interesting to see what a new director does with the genre, especially one where their background is in music and that is what the style of the film is based around. A lot of the metal songs talk about epic battles, but it is mainly left to your imagination to picture what these would be like.

I would like to see what a band like Barbarion would make if they had an opportunity to make their own movie.

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