SXSW 2015 Review: DEATHGASM Rocks!

Contributor; Toronto
SXSW 2015 Review: DEATHGASM Rocks!
Not since the days of video store browsing has there been a horror movie quite as demonically satisfying as Deathgasm.

This is simply because they just don't make 'em like they used to. But even when they used to, more often than not, most horror movies on the shelf, despite their incredibly cool VHS cases, would still fall short of the quality Deathgasm has achieved thanks to writer/director Jason Lei Howden's genuine fan boy love for an extinct heyday of gore via Tom Savini practical effects, as best exemplified in films like Return of the Living Dead.

Even before seeing Deathgasm, but more than a little awed by its title, the Rock and Roll horror premise evoked memories of trekking to the corner video store and being blown away by the cover of an 80s not-so-classic horror movie called Black Roses. With it's explosively cool case art, consisting of monstrous eyes looming behind a spinal guitar neck literally brimming off the box like a dime store romance novel from hell, Roses promised a Rock & Roll horror extravaganza. With gory stills on the back presenting a demonic heavy metal band doing vaguely horrible things, I'm sure I wasn't the only kid who couldn't wait to get home and shove it in his/her VCR.

Sadly, Black Roses sucked. But of course it did. In an era steeped in The Cannon Group sales model of poster first, movie second, it couldn't possibly live up to its extravagant illustration. Now, without being able to say for sure whether or not Howden has ever experienced being profoundly let down by awesome poster art, nor if this has anything to do with the intentions behind his debut feature, all the same, Deathgasm is the movie Black Roses should have been.

Deathgasm is about a teenage heavy metal band of outcasts who one day find ancient musical notation for an evil melody capable of demonifying their community. Like Ash reading from the Necronomicon, the friends can't resist testing the material, guffawing at consequences. Naturally, the consequences turn out to be horror inducing as they begin to encounter the demons, which they've created with their reckless musicianship. You can more or less anticipate the gory mayhem that ensues as the band tries to restore order through non-peaceful means.

It's a very cool plot, but one can't be blamed if it sounds unremarkable. Thinking again of Black Roses with a similarly cool plot, horror movies are made or broken in their execution. What's so delightful about Howden's execution, setting it apart from other genre pictures of similar ilk, is its spirit. Deathgasm is a movie that adores 80s horror, without relying too heavily on pastiche. Yes, it takes a major page from that Tom Savini book of practical effects, and in the best possible way, but the voice that shines through the hysterical dialogue and playfully comic editing, is so teenage, so punk, it makes a beat-to-death genre feel refreshing.

deserves the coolest poster on the video store shelf of home video hell.
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