First published by TwitchFilm

“What if I told you it’s all real?” asks Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) in voiceover, speaking of the infernal lyrics and demonic iconography of the heavy metal with which he so identifies. Unassertive, sweet-natured Brodie finds expression for “the pain and the rage” of adolescence through his beloved music, and, fostered in the suburban hell of Greypoint by an aunt and uncle “balls deep into Jesus”, he naturally gravitates towards the school’s bullied D&D geeks Dion and Giles (Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell) and fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake), who together form the garage band DEATHGASM (“All spelt in capitals – lower case is for pussies”). Yet after one of Zakk’s delinquent misadventures leads them to an ancient musical score which, when played, unleashes pandemonium, guitarist Brodie will, if he wants to win the heart of classmate Medina (Kimberley Crossman) and to save the world from metalopalypse, have to prove his prowess with chainsaw, drill, weaponised sex toys and more than one kind of axe.

Jason Lei Howden’s feature debut transforms all the angst and alienation of the teen years into hilariously gory wish fulfilment, without ever quite forgetting the banal realities from which all these fantasies of empowerment emerge. Not only does Brodie get to live out the sort of scenarios depicted on metal album sleeves or in his sketchbook, meting out violent vengeance upon hectoring relatives and schoolyard tormentors alike, even as cartoonish animations are splashed across his more real-life encounters, but Deathgasm also makes comic hay out of the practical incongruities of Satanism (“Do demons recognise daylight savings?”, etc.). The results are an affectionate skewering of coming-of-age tropes, metal culture and New Zealand mundanity, where the blood-splattered, head-severing end of the world proves utterly endearing. Death to false metal!

Anton Bitel