Words by Scott Murphy
When you think of New Zealand horror-comedies you probably think of Peter Jackson and his early splatter efforts but there has been some additions to the list with 2014’s “What We Do in the Shadows” and now this joyfully gore-filled effort…
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Stephen Ure, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell
Running Time: 86mins
It is not an unfamiliar set-up as our misfit hero Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), due to the death of his father and institutionalisation of his mother, is sent to live with his uber-Christian, stern, disapproving Auntie and Uncle and bullying cousin in the aptly named Greypoint. His only outlet is metal and his only friends are two D&D obsessed “geeks” called Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (David Cresswell). Predictably he fantasises about hooking up with the most popular girl in school Medina (Kimberley Crossman) and even more predictably as the movie starts she is seeing his douchebag cousin.
Another beat that will not take you by surprise is he soon gravitates towards Zakk (James Blake) another heavy metal loner but one who is cooler, has more attitude and is totally un-self-conscious unlike Brodie. To be fair all this maybe kind of familiar from a thousand other teen comedies but it is done with enough fun and wit for it not to feel lazy. Particularly entertaining in these early sequences are Brodie’s daydreams which are like metal album covers come to life. Also Brodie’s drolly sardonic narration provides a bunch of laughs. Brodie, Zakk, Dion and Giles soon decide to form a heavy metal group which after an entertaining pitching of names (Murder Boner, anyone?) settle on DEATHGASM (“All in capitals, lower case is for pussies” as Zakk succinctly puts it). Which leads to some fun hijinks including a hilarious black metal-inspired photo-shoot.
The horror element kicks in when Zakk says he knows where long-thought missing presumed dead metal star Rikki Daggers is hanging out. When he and Brodie discover Daggers they also discover some medieval-looking sheet music referred to as the “Black Hym” which Brodie translates. If you guessed that when this is played all hell breaks loose you would be spot-on as people end up possessed in an Evil Dead fashion and it invokes a demon called Aeloth.
This is where fun really begins as the band and Medina must fight off the zombies the town have turned to it, an Aeloth worshipping cult and stop Aeloth himself from manifesting in physical form and destroying the world. This is effectively done as the practical gore effects are spot-on and the various fights with the possessed zombies are nothing less than entertaining particularly in a sequence when Zakk and Brodie run out of weapons and have to fight them off with various sex toys.
While there is a lot of homages to other movies and it hits on a lot of genre beats there is neat twists on formula as well. Most especially in the character of Medina typical of this sort of story she starts out as fantasy dream-girl who is there simply to be obtained by the protagonist. However as the film goes on she quickly develops into a more rounded, funnier and more badass character than you would have predicted at the outset.
As well as Crossman who plays Medina the cast are generally impressive. Especially Milo Cawthorne as the lead Brodie (he also impressed in last years’ time-loop horror “Blood Punch”) as he has a dry wit and a geeky charm. Also James Blake is gloriously offensive and obnoxious as Zakk. You may also be surprised to learn that despite the skull-splitting soundtrack and all the literal skull splitting it is actually quite a heartwarming movie as it develops well the friendships and relationships of the characters, making them easy to root for.
It would also be fair to say that while the movie is not just for metalheads, it should appeal to any and all horror fans looking for a fun film on Saturday night, it will have an extra appeal to metalheads as it packed with metal references and in-jokes that fans of genre will have fun spotting. As mentioned that should not be an impediment to peoples enjoyment of this comedic gorefest and it may even have non-metal fans throwing up the devil horns by the end of its run time.
Overall: Quick confession, I am both a metalhead and a horror-hound so this flick was pretty much tailor made for me and those like me but even if you don’t fall into that demographic, I think, it would be hard not to fall for this riotous, determinedly low-brow, tongue-in-cheek, splatterfest. Also it one of those rare horror films that has such a stonking title and manages to live up to it unlike so many all title, no movie movies.
Words by Scott Murphy