Ask any pulpit-pounder: Heavy metal and satanism go hand in gnarled hand. The match is made in heaven in Jason Lei Howden’s debut feature, Deathgasm, a bonkers apocalypse movie that pits rockers against the hordes of hell.
Pawned off on relatives and tormented at school, headbanger Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) forms a garage band with some fellow outcasts, including surly brother-in-metal Zakk (James Blake). Entrusted with satanic sheet music by a burnt-out former star, the band semi-inadvertently summons demons into the bodies of the town’s straitlaced residents, just as a squad of occultists arrives to track down the black hymn for their own ends. What follows is mayhem: bystanders clawing their eyes out and attacking the unpossessed, and the band defending themselves with whatever’s on hand, from weed whackers to floppy sex toys.
Cawthorne is vulnerable and resilient as Brodie, bullied and torn down every day and propping up a tough exterior with his music; the abuse is cartoonish, but Cawthorne’s performance underpins the resulting power fantasy with genuine emotion.
His tongue half in cheek, Howden indulges in stylistic flourishes like introducing characters with notebook-paper sketches and flights of fancy that transport characters to Boris Vallejo–inspired mountaintops. The film that results is confident and giddily brutal.
Written and directed by Jason Lei Howden
Dark Sky Films
Opens October 2, Nitehawk Cinema
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2015