I like heavy metal. I also like horror films. That I like both is by no means unique – I expect there is certainly considerable overlap among the sets of fans. A film that marries the two, however, is unique. Do you like metal? Do you like horror? If you answered yes to either one of those questions, then I’ll save you some time – check out Deathgasm. You’ll have a great time. It’s a fun, funny, visually inventive, tasteless gore-filled romp that’ll have you cringing, groaning, chuckling, and banging your head through most of it’s ninety minute runtime. There are, however, some caveats to heed: while Deathgasm’s first half is a nearly perfect highschool misfit metalhead comedy that promises to bloom into an Evil Dead fan’s dream come true, sadly, it’s here where the film falters. Once the demonic possessions start happening, the film starts to feel a bit tired, a bit more one note, and barells along without the same amount of care that came in the first half. It’s all still fun and funny and gross, but that first half is just so darn good that I couldn’t help but feel a little let down.
When Metal maniac Brody’s (Milo Cawthorne) mother is committed to an asylum for addiction and mental illness, he’s forced to move in with his devoutly religious uncle’s family. At high school, he bonds with D&D dorks (no offense intended to any D&Ders reading this – I’ve rolled more than my share of polyhedral dice) Dion (Sam Berkeley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell), he gets picked on by his jerkwad jock cousin, and he crushes on babe Medina (Kimberley Crossman), the main squeeze of said jerkwad. While on the hunt for metal vinyl, he meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake), and he and the dorks form a band(“DEATHGASM – all caps. Lowercase is for pussies”). During a smash-and-grab for fun, the two leatherclad bangers happen across a strange, handwritten score with ominous images and latin notation – Deathgasm’s version of The Necronomicon – that promises to be a badass track for their album. As it turns out, it’s a black hymn to summon a demon. Whoops.
As I said, the first half of Deathgasm is fantastic. It’s funny, sweet, and has some really cool bored-metalhead-teenager-notebook-scribbles for character introductions. Sure, it’s outcasts vs. in-crowd like a million other teen comedies, but it’s really well done, and I’ve never seen one featuring a metal fan. After the possessed start running about and the gore goes to eleven, everything just feels a bit more haphazard, and it’s hard to know what the rules are. At first, it seems like just old folks are possessed, but then we see possessed teenagers and the town is burning. How did the possession spread? It seems like the song needs people to hear it in order for it to work – we’re told that people need to hear it when the crew tries to reverse their work – but that doesn’t make a lot of sense when the whole town is possessed after our guys play the song in their garage.
An evil, corporate-like cult is introduced (in a pretty funny scene), but they’re forgotten about until the plot has to be moved forward or their needs to be some exposition. I’m not sure what they were all about, other than they wanted to raise the demon themselves. I liked Medina quite a bit, but her transition from normal high school chick to axe wielding, wise-cracking slayer was pretty jarring, and she’s not much of a character other than a trophy for bickering dudes. When Brody and Medina go for ice cream with Brody in full corpsepaint and the conversation goes to, “Do you like metal,” I was hoping for Medina to respond with, “No,” and it would be left at that. They’d agree that it’s okay to be different. Isn’t that what’s so wrong about dickhead high school cliques – the insistence on uniformity and intolerance of uniqueness? Instead, Medina abandons everything she was before, and just becomes a kind of metal maiden accessory for the guys to fight over. Dion describes Brody and Zakk in D&D alignment terms – Dion is lawful good, and Zakk is Chaotic Neutral – it’s funny, but it doesn’t really work because we’ve seen Brody join in the chaos more than once. He helps Zakk steal, he smokes weed, he’s a dick to his religious in-laws for no reason other than they’re religious, and worse still, he murders a non-possessed. The latter scene is definitely funny, but it would probably work better as a scene in a skit rather than in a film that’s trying to be character driven for at least half of its running time.
If I sound like I’m harshing on Deathgasm’s vibe too hard, it’s just because it looked like it had what it takes to make it into the classics. Instead, the script gets too messy, it’s too inconsistent, and it settles for being just a solidly fun watch. I’m still giving Deathgasm a very solid recommendation. I laughed a lot, and you will, too. It’s frequently hilarious, the soundtrack is great, and I loved the practical effects work. Zakk’s hero moment where he wreaks chainsaw whirlwind fury is awesome. I just wanted a little more time in the writing room to wring out the kinks.
7 devil’s horns out of 10