With What We Do in the Shadows, Housebound and now Deathgasm (2015), New Zealand is fast becoming the go-to place for crowd-pleasing horror comedies. Jason Lei Howden’s directorial debut is primed for unalloyed genre thrills, making you laugh until your sides hurt and subverting the rom-zom-com format. If fears going in hinged on the suspicion that Deathgasm was an attention-grabbing title and nothing much else, worries dissipate soon enough, as a laugh-out-loud banquet of blood, made in the spirit of Evil Dead II (1988) and Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992), plays out on the screen. Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is a heavy metal fan spinning the black circle for Satan.
At least, that’s what his God-bothering aunt and uncle think. As with many kids who find solace in extreme music and subcultures, it’s got nothing to do with religion or devil-worshipping. Brodie’s only friends in the world (apart from his beloved record collection) are two RPG nerdlingers, Dion and Gilles. Then, one day, at a local record store, he meets Zakk (James Blake) and these two bros fall head over heels for each other. They bond over their love for metal gods Haxansword (the sort of pun that sums up the movie’s tone perfectly), become bezzie mates and start a band (the titular DEATHGASM. Spelled all uppercase because Zakk believes that “lowercase is for pussies.”)
The narrative plotting treads the well-worn path and trajectory of many romantic comedies: meeting, spending time together, the bliss of new found companionship, the subsequent falling out and traditional third act reconciling. The focus, however, is two misfit teenage boys. Brodie and Zakk were meant to be life-long pals, only a fit of jealousy (a rival, female love interest) and a zombie apocalypse mess things up a bit. As a take on the ubiquitous cultural phenomenon that is the ‘bromance’, Deathgasm is up there with Shaun of the Dead (2004), perhaps its number one inspiration, but is decidedly more homoerotic. Given how arch, ironic and sex-fuelled the comedy is (Zakk thinks making fourth base is ‘anal sex’ and in one scene, the pair attack two demons with anal beads and a couple of two-way dildos they find in a Christian couple’s closet. The box is marked ‘Church stuff’), it can’t possibly be an unconscious product of the script and, therefore, is very much part of Howden’s bromance deconstruction.