Horror and comedy have been partners in crime since Abbott and Costello were being chased around by the Universal Monsters way back in the 1940s. But no decade helped solidify this magical marriage of genres better than the ’80s. A deluge of funny and scary flicks saturated the market and pretty much perfected the art during this time: The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Gremlins, The Toxic Avenger, The Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad, House, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Beetlejuice. And that’s barely a third of them. I mean, just absolutely everywhere. And while Gremlins may have been the only massive blockbuster among the group, there is no doubt in any horror fans mind the importance of all the aforementioned titles to the history of the genre.
When the ’90s rolled around, however, horror comedies were a little harder to come by. And by the ’00s they barely made a blip on anyone’s radar, save for the crud that was the Scary Movie franchise. Sure, there are some hits buried in that first decade — Club Dread, Shaun of the Dead, Slither, Zombieland — but I still only need a hand and a half to count the passible releases from those 10 long years.
The good news is: horror comedies have slowly been making a comeback! Beginning with 2012’s sleeper meta hit The Cabin in the Woods, horror comedies have been steadily gaining traction once again — which brings us to 2015’s Deathgasm, the latest and greatest the genre has to offer.
The movie follows Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a gawky teenaged metalhead who has to go live with his ultra-conservative aunt and uncle after his mom is institutionalized. He also has to attend a new school where he immediately falls for a flaxen-haired dreamgirl named Medina (Kimberly Crossman). To help integrate himself, he starts a metal band with a few classmates and a local badass, Zakk (James Blake). Meanwhile, he’s continually picked on at home and at school by his cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith).
Soon, Brodie and Zakk come into possession of some mysterious sheet music written in Latin, and decide to translate it and have their band cover it. In doing so, they (somewhat) unknowingly open the gates of Hell — turning many people into horrific demons and ultimately summoning the D-man himself (I’m talkin’ about Satan, you sapheads.) Now it’s up to the timid Brodie, his crush Medina, and their motley crew of metalheads to stop the demons.
I’d seen a few mixed reviews from friends online, so I was a little leery about watching it, but let me just say: I loved this movie. It’s the perfect love letter to splatstick flicks like Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Plus, it has a cinematic prowess that recalls the techniques of Raimi, and even Edgar Wright: lots of kinetic cuts, lots of fluid edits, and director Jason Lei Howden makes sure that every shot counts. This last part — the way it was shot and edited — may be the most important aspect of all, above the rampant blood and guts. It’s always a terrible idea when horror movies let creative direction take a backseat to whatever story they’re trying to tell, since most horror films rarely have anything new to say. In fact, I’d argue the way a horror film is shot is possibly the most important aspect above anything else. Recent indie faves like It Follows, The Babadook, The Boy, Spring, The Canal — all lauded, yet each story couldn’t be more different from the next. The one thing they have in common? They’re all gorgeously lensed. And that really, really matters.
Ultimately, Deathgasm is just a really fun film that doesn’t take itself — or anything else, for that matter — seriously. The jokes are sharp and they never linger on a punchline too long. Plus: the gore is gore-geous! Split heads, torn limbs, intestines, and blood-puking that makes the cherry pit scene from The Witches of Eastwick look positively tame. I mean, how can you go wrong with a movie about a group of metalheads in corpse paint trying to save their town from demonic hellspawn? You can’t.
Deathgasm is currently on VOD and I say CHECK IT OUT!