Metalhead Brodie (Miles Cawthorne) is sent to live with his devoutly Christian Aunt and Uncle in a new town. At odds with his bullying cousin and his relatives’ religious views, Brodie quickly finds himself an outcast. However, he manages to befriend classmate Medina (Kimberley Crossman), fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake) and form a band, the eponymous Deathgasm. Following the ill-fated discovery of some ancient sheet music known as The Black Hymn, the unwitting heroes manage to release a hoard of demons upon the townsfolk, and it’s up to them to set things right.
Earning comparisons to Peter Jackson’s early works, Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm is certainly in a similar ballpark to the anarchic craziness of Brain Dead and Bad Taste. Unfortunately, it also shares the same dismally unfunny approach as Jackson’s Meet the Feebles. Deathgasm labours under the misapprehension that its puerile sense of humour makes it funny by default. It does not.
Deathgasm spends 86 minutes trying hard to make you like it, but it’s annoying rather than funny, cliché rather than inspired, and juvenile in the worst possible way. Deathgasm raids the horror pantry but turns up empty. It borrows shamelessly from Brain Dead, the Saints Row video game and, most of all, The Evil Dead (even down to a line about eating someone’s soul). Quick-cut editing of the gang tooling up, ala Bruce Campbell, feels hackneyed and played out. It simply invites the audience to go watch The Evil Dead again. The rest of Deathgasm’s fatuous inspiration seems to come directly from the mind of a 15-year-old boy.
Generally, the cast is fine. Although as Brodie, Cawthorne is unconvincing, spending the entire film looking like he’s going to a heavy metal fancy dress party. While as Zakk, Blake appears to be attempting some sort of weird interpretation of Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You… but with corpse paint.
On the plus side, there is imagination in the well-crafted effects work, and the movie is well put together. There are even a couple of decent gags in there amongst the deluge of misfires, but beyond these few moments there is not much by way of highlights.
The treatment of women in Deathgasm is also particularly suspect. Medina is nothing more than a standard girlfriend cliché. She’s a part of the group, but not part of the band, and at the end of her character arc she finishes the movie completely adopting Brodie’s taste, style and identity as her own. Adding to the sourness are some allegedly comedic heavy metal fantasy sequences, where women fawn over Brodie’s guitar playing while their clothes fall off. And it would also be nice to think that in 2015 we have all moved beyond ‘woman gives blowjob under a desk’ gags, but Deathgasm begs to differ. Aside from being gigantically unfunny, this casual sexism is yet another mark against it.
Complaining about the idiocy of Deathgasm does seem a little redundant; it’s not pretending to be Citizen Kane after all. But Deathgasm’s main flaw, aside from being, again, mercilessly unfunny, is that it simply tries too hard. Everything about it feels forced. Like a bratty toddler throwing a tantrum in a supermarket aisle, Deathgasm is desperately begging for attention it doesn’t deserve.