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Dark Sky Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/5/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/11/2016
In October, 1986, a movie called Trick or Treat was released, made a decidedly tiny splash in theaters, and the practically disappeared into obscurity. As it starred the actor who played Skippy on Family Ties, it didn't have any star power and subsequent home video releases have featured low-res photos of Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne on the cover, as they each have cameos. The movie has never gotten a proper DVD or Blu-ray Disc release and continues to languish on the fringes. (I saw the movie in the theater when it was released and enjoyed it.) And yet, this little movie has had a ripple effect and its influences can be seen in other films. Rob Zombie's 2012 trainwreckLords of Salem had some similarities to Trick or Treat, as does the new New Zealand film Deathgasm. But, when will the original get its due?
As Deathgasm opens, we meet Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a sullen teenager who is sent to live with his uncle when his mother is no longer capable of caring for him. Brodie lives for heavy metal music, of which his strict uncle disapproves and which makes him somewhat of an outcast at school. However, Medina (Kimberley Crossman) does like the fact that Brodie is different. He meets fellow metal-head Zakk (James Blake), a nihilist who doesn't like anything, and an awkward kinship forms. They decided to start a band, which Zakk dubs Deathgasm, along with nerds Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell). Zakk has heard that reclusive rock star Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure) is living nearby and he convinces Brodie to break into the man's house. Once there, they find some ancient sheet music. They decide to play it and, literally, all hell break loose in their small town. Will these misfits be able to save the day?
Deathgasm is the feature-film debut of Writer/Director Jason Lei Howden, a filmmaker who certainly wears his inspirations on his sleeve. One would have to assume that if Howden isn't a fan of metal, he certainly knows a lot about it, as the movie unabashedly pushes the medium and in now way lampoons it. As noted above, whether or not it was intentional, the movie owes a debt to Trick or Treat, as both feature ancient spirits being released through heavy metal. Something which is intended is the fact that Deathgasm pays tribute to the early gore films of Peter Jackson, such as Bad Taste and Dead/Alive. Howden admits to be a fan of these movies and a quick check of his filmography shows that he was part of an effects team which worked on The Hobbit. It's no surprise that he'd pay homage to his fellow Kiwi.
But, there's a difference between having inspirations and actually being inspired. Deathgasm is dragged down by the fact that it doesn't have an original thought in its head. From the main characters (high school outcasts) to the villains (an sinister organization) to the zombie outbreak (every movie ever), I felt that I'd seen it all before, and done better. At no point did I witness something that felt fresh or new in the least, save for the inclusion of the Norwegian metal makeup. This made the film feel like it was dragging at times, despite Howden's attempts to give it a frenetic pace.
The movie is also done in by its tone, as Deathgasm has no idea what it wants to be. We see Ragman...I mean Brodie get abused and humiliated at school and the film doesn't pull any punches (literally) in the scene where he is beaten up. The movie does take a chance by making Zakk a truly deplorable character, to the point that he's nearly a villain as well. Yes, Deathgasm is certainly dark at times...except for the sex toy fight scene (which we've seen before). Again, Howden is attempting to emulate Peter Jackson's gift for making movies were incredibly gross, but also very funny. But, Jackson knew to wander on the precipice of darkness, while Howden runs headlong into it and then expects to create laughter from the result. The outcome is a movie which has only one funny moment, which is saved by Cawhthorne's acting skills.
As someone who doesn't shy away from heavy metal or gore, I was looking forward to Deathgasm. But, I also like movies which have something new to say and this one does not. The movie garnered some attention from film festivals and maybe it does play well with a large crowd, but most horror vets will be disappointed like myself and find themselves inspired to watch Bad Taste again.
Deathgasm never explains why Brodie's uncle will allow him to use the garage on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a very, very slight amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the red blood, and the image is never overly dark or bright, even though much of the second half of the film takes place at night. The level of detail is good, especially in close ups and the depth works nicely in long shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.4 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the music sounds fine, providing notable bass response. The stereo effects show good separation and often alert us to things happening off-screen. The surround sound effects really come into play during the finale.
The Deathgasm Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Jason Lei Howden. "Brotherhood of Steel: The Cast of Deathgasm" (5 minutes) takes us to a table-read and then offers comments from the actors, as they discuss their characters and the story. "Demon Seed: An Interview with Jason Lei Howden" (5 minutes) allows the filmmaker to talk about his career and how the film originated. He also discusses the films which influenced him. "Gorgasm: The FX of Deathgasm" (5 minutes) takes us on-set and into the make-up studio to see the bloody effects being designed and executed. We get a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Deathgasm" by Bulletbelt. The extras are rounded out by a TRAILER and a TEASER.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long