Saturday, October 24, 2015



Some chuckle-worthy dark humor, a decent metal soundtrack, and some phenomenal gore gags are often overshadowed by eye-rolling film tropes and a poor overall representation of metal fan culture in New Zealand horror comedy, DEATHGASM.  

When I was approached to review metal-oriented gorefest, Deathgasm, I had some high expectations. Heavy metal? Comedy? Horror movies? It sounded like the perfect marriage of everything I appreciate in life, and to be fair, there is indeed a lot to appreciate about Deathgasm. It's a fun movie, and it's definitely something the gorehounds among us will get a kick out of. But as someone who respects great film and even greater metal music, Deathgasm's greatness ultimately did not match my excitement for it.

The movie follows the awkward teenage metalhead Brodie, who finds himself stuck with his Christian conservative relatives after his mother gets put away for drug charges. Brodie's lifestyle, obviously, is not well-accepted by his family, and his whole interaction with them in the film can more or less be summed up by watching the first three minutes of Tenacious D's Pick of Destiny. He covers his walls in posters (more on which ones in a second), consistently wears his patch-covered denim vest (more on which bands in a second), and spends his spare moments at home wanking away on a cheap B.C Rich and a puny Marshall practice amp, much to their religious dismay. He's also not well accepted by his peers at school, constantly tortured by his own cousin and his bro dude friends in the sort of sadistic ways that you don't really see outside of cinema. That sort of "well, well, well" swirly-giving bullying that is only one example of the many in regards to Deathgasm's admittedly lazy writing. Of course, the bully cousin has a perfect blonde girlfriend who he doesn't treat exactly perfect, so she can't launch her moist, vagina into Brodie's nice-guy-with-a-bad-boy face fast enough after putting dewy eyes on him for all of 6 seconds. I think Brodie helps her pick up some dropped books or some shit as the harbinger of their inevitable romance. I groaned out loud at this moment, and I wish it would be the only time in the film I felt like doing so.

Early in the film, Brodie meets up with fellow metal maniac Zakk, who is clearly presented as the metal elitist of elitists. However, my interest in how they would go about representing his sort of character properly in the film was soundly dashed the moment he pouted his lips and nodded in true metal approval the moment Brodie expressed interest in a Trivium record. Yes, let's talk about that now... This movie, meant to put underground metalheads in the spotlight as protagonists, oozes with appreciation for Trivium, of all things. Trivium posters, Trivium patches, Trivium stickers, Trivium t-shirts. It's all over the fucking place. It baffles me that a movie that would make use of black metal music and imagery would have a mainstream vanilla metal band like Trivium present in the same piece of media so prominently.

That's not my biggest issue with how metal fandom is represented in Deathgasm. It portrays metal fans as a bunch of bullied, brooding edgelords who consistently have to reassure their fragile masculinity at every turn with artificially inflated crassness and intention to offend. It implies that there's no way anyone could listen to extreme music without having overblown hardships regarding their upbringing or social interactions. Considering the people who made this film surely must have been metal fans themselves, I was disappointed to see how inaccurately portrayed metal fans were as a whole. While it's often true that metalheads tend to be a bit less socially inclined than most people, generally the most shocking thing about us is how dully normal we all are. I didn't have a traumatic childhood and I'm not a sociopath, but somehow I find myself a black metal fan anyway. I think if the film lent itself to playing with that concept, I would have enjoyed it significantly more.

Perhaps the movie played into the metalhead stereotypes on purpose strictly for entertainment value. It's a comedy, after all. Nothing in this film is meant to be taken that seriously. I just feel it was a missed opportunity to shine some truth on the subject of metal fans. Ultimately, Brodie's crummy life and abuse is what leads him to summon a demonic presence in the pursuit of greater strength, so it all played into the main plot of the film. I guess I'm just taking it personally that it was done at the expense of his joy of metal music. The horror genre has no shortage of bullied weaklings that do something despicable out of resentment or desperation. Deathgasm just uses the perceived suffering of metal fandom as a new excuse to make that happen, and it didn't exactly sit right with me.

Finally, considering this was an independent horror film, Deathgasm's story and characters were overall very Hollywood simple. The women in the film are essentially walking blow up dolls used to enhance the male characters' plot. Eventually they get to upgrade from brainless eye candy to fighting fuck toys. So aside from the gore gals among us, this movie doesn't have much to offer the ladies. There's a chubby comedic relief buffoon, an evil organization of rich people, some sort of clairvoyant with prophesies of doom and the aforementioned lead protagonist in a new town and new school where he has a tough time fitting in. They could have done anything with this plot, and it's not as though I didn't approve of the supernatural horror that all this fluff finally leads up to. It just seemed like Deathgasm was a very typical teenage boy struggle film with a metal appreciation skin overlaying it. Just replace black metal and deadites with radioactive spider powers and this is a movie we've seen too many times before.

I didn't want to give Deathgasm a poor review. It's got a lot of cool stuff. A solid metal soundtrack, funny jokes, kickass animated transitions, good acting, and the gore gags are all spectacular. It's a mindlessly fun movie and it should just be treated as such. However, if you were looking at Deathgasm to be the essential movie for metalheads who want to see themselves portrayed properly as unlikely heroes, I'd keep looking.


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