The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"DEATHGASM"

Deathgasm

Heavy metal has always featured a certain amount of devil talk and Satanic imagery. They just go hand-in-hand. More often than not, such things are little more than an affectation designed to appeal to disenfranchised, rebellious teenagers who want to shock their parents and other authority figures. It's all fundamentally designed to make adults nervous. Deathgasm, a horror-comedy from New Zealand, wittily imagines a world in which the connection between heavy metal and Hell is very real. People who like metal music will dig it. People who always thought the metal image was a bit daft will dig it even more.

Milo Hawthorne plays Brodie, a metal-loving teen boy who is repeatedly bullied by his classmates. He just wants to be left alone to play in his garage band and to crush on his school's dream queen, Medina (Kimberley Crossman). While rummaging through a vintage record store one day, Brodie meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake) and invites him to jam with the band. They eventually dub themselves “Deathgasm.” Zakk is a bit of a troublemaker, dragging Brodie along to break into the home of a former rock star they both admire. Inside, they find a piece of music known as the “Black Hymn.” Figuring it will make a great new tune to add to their repertoire, they perform the song, only to discover that doing so opens a portal to Hell. Soon, people in their town who heard the song are possessed by a bloodthirsty demon. (Brodie's aunt and uncle, both devout Christians, are especially hard hit.) The boys, working together with Medina, have to find a way to reverse the problem.

Deathgasm combines the visual flair of Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with the manic, gory energy of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2. Writer/director Jason Lei Howden throws metal-inspired graphics up on the screen to emphasize a moment. Other times, he stages fantasy sequences that look like a heavy metal album cover come to life. Howden also fills Deathgasm with shockingly weird moments that catch you off guard. A school teacher who repeatedly projectile vomits blood into the face of a female student is – believe it or not – one of the milder things on display. All of it is excuted in a super-fast, super-stylized manner, as if the entire film has snorted Ritalin after consuming a case of Red Bull.

That obviously means it's not a picture for everyone. But if you like deliriously over-the-top horror with a tongue in one cheek, you're in for a treat. Deathgasm might be the most outrageously gory movie I have ever seen – and I reviewed Turbo Kid. So many bizarre forms of murder and mutilation are up on the screen that it would be impossible to count them all. The “chainsaw up the rectum” bit, to cite an example, is especially foul. And yet, Deathgasm approaches violence in the same way a Road Runner cartoon does. Nothing about it is supposed to be realistic. The cartoonishness is so pervasive that, rather than getting offended, you actually laugh at these things. (Well, you do if you have a sick sense of humor. If you don't have a sick sense of humor, why would you be watching a movie called Deathgasm in the first place?)

If there's a downside, it's that the characters are largely one-dimensional, and the real-life-as-a-heavy-metal-album-cover concept only goes so far. Deathgasm starts to feel a tiny bit repetitive by the time it reaches its gruesome conclusion. Nonethless, the film is a lot of fun because Howden doesn't mock heavy metal or condescend to its fans. Instead, he celebrates the pure excess of the music and its accompanying image by exaggerating those things even further than they already are. That makes the jokes funnier and the demonic gore even more enjoyably crazy.

To Deathgasm, heavy metal is the most awesome thing in the world, even when it's unleashing demons unto the earth. In the horror-comedy pantheon, this movie most definitely rocks hard.

Now I'm going to go play it backwards to see if there's a hidden message.

( out of four)


Deathgasm is unrated, but contains staggering amounts of blood, gore, and carnage, largely played for laughs. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.


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