The director from New Zealand, Jason Lei Howden, spoke with us about his new film DEATHGASM. The movie is a huge crowd pleaser and is already gaining a hardcore following by fans. We were given the opportunity to ask a few questions about the origins of DEATHGASM and how the movie came to be. Check out our interview with the most metal moviemaker on the planet right now and go see the film this weekend when it comes out in select theaters across the country.
High School is Hell! Metal-thrashing Brodie is an outcast in a sea of jocks and cheerleaders until he meets a kindred spirit in fellow metalhead Zakk. After starting their own band, Brodie and Zakk’s resentment of the suburban wasteland leads them to a mysterious piece of sheet music said to grant Ultimate Power to whoever plays it. But the music also summons an ancient evil entity known as Aeloth The Blind One, who threatens to tear apart existence itself. Their classmates and family become inhabited by demonic forces, tearing out their own eyes and turning into psychotic murderers… and this is only the beginning! – Dark Sky Films
Where did you come up with the idea for DEATHGASM?
Jason Lei Howden: I think it started with the title. It’s like this sort of vaguely offensive title me and my friends were just sort of chatting about. We knew it was going too be a splatter film; Brain Dead, Evil Dead sort of stuff. We really didn’t have any story and I had this idea of chucking like metalhead characters in y’know. Me and my mates were like 15 or 16; y’know death metal t-shirts, long hair. Imagine characters like that fighting demons and it just kind of snowballed from there.
Were you into metal growing up? Were you like a Brodie or a Zakk at all?
JLH: Totally. I think I was probably more like Brodie, although there is a lot of myself in Zakk. I think I got into metal when I was fairly young like 12 or 13. I listened to Cannibal Corpse Tomb of the Mutilated and I put it down for a few weeks ’cause it scared the fuck out of me. It’s just like this wall of evil. I kind of got back into it and started discovering bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
When you see that shot of Brodie walking to the school wearing metal clothes, that was very much me. I had to move to a small town in New Zealand not unlike the town in the movie. I got picked on quite a bit, I got shit on at school for being a metalhead and this other guy who was kind of dumb but really kind of huge, and the character of Zakk kind of got based on him.
Where did you get inspiration from for the tone of the film?
JLH: I think the tone came from me and my friends and our very unique sense of humor. Some would call it juvenile. (laughs) There is a lot of homage in there, a lot of Argento is in there in a few scenes. Even the dildo in the face is sort of a Raging Bull sort of shot. (laughs) Yeah, but at a certain point you’ve gotta draw the line as well. I remember producers trying to encourage me to do some of those you know Evil Dead POV shots and I was like, “No. I just don’t think we can go that far.” It’s just kind of a bit too far down that path.
It’s interesting because those dutch tilt kind of shots that we use quite a bit, we’d push the camera into someone’s face and tilt it while you’re pushing in. Sam Raimi did quite a few of those and Peter Jackson kinda stole them from him. (laughs) Yeah, it’s kind of classic horror-comedy fare now. And there also the influence from metal albums and metal album covers. To be honest, if I was gonna send a movie back in time to my 16 year-old self, what would my 16 year-old self want to see? I’d want to see metal, I’d want see splatter, I’d want to see tits; so I just kind of went from there y’know, yeah.
How were you able to get all of the metal references together that wind up in the film?
JLH: I think I emailed every metal band in the world at least once. I emailed everyone. I emailed Iron Maiden just to see, and most of the big bands we couldn’t use their music, but I just wanted to see if we could use their merchandise and Iron Maiden came back and just said no. A lot of bands just didn’t even email me back so at least they had the courtesy to do that. I pretty much bothered everyone and it’s interesting because you have to get permission to show a t-shirt or a poster or whatever, but you can have an actor mid-line reference or mention a band.
Y’know there was that line where Kimberly mentions Anal Cunt, we didn’t have to ask permission to do that, but all the other stuff we just had to persevere and try to get metal bands on our side. Luckily in the metal community there’s so much generosity and so much goodwill, out of any other genre of music if we’d tried to do it with like rap music or whatever (laughs) I don’t know if we’d had the same results. So yeah, there was a lot of goodwill there.
What kind of audience do you want to see DEATHGASM?
JLH: It’s interesting ’cause in my mind I want it to be that kind of movie that a bunch of teenage metalheads and horror fans get together and smoke some pot, drink some beers and just watch it at home on their screen. I’ve had good feedback from a wide range of people. It’s been really interesting y’know. It’s not to say that everyone’s been positive about it, there have been some negative reviews; but it’s really something that’s resonated well with the horror community far more that I expected.
We had great reviews from Fangoria and Bloody Disgusting and all these sites and I’m just like, “What?!” It’s amazing. I’m really blown away and I’m really humbled by that as well. I think metalheads of any age bracket or set are gonna love it. And hopefully there is a wider group of people that enjoy horror-comedy like Shaun of the Dead y’know. It is very different than that, but hopefully there is a wide switch from people that really get into it.
You’ve made one the most metal films we’re probably ever going to see. It’s brutal. Is there anything you want to talk about before we get going?
JLH: Yeah, I just want to say it’s probably the most metal ‘Heavy Metal Horror’ until the sequel. (laughs) Hopefully we’re gonna outdo it. It’s coming out October 2nd to select US theaters and VOD. The more people that go out and support it, the more chance we have of doing it again and doing other cool shit for bands really. It’s been amazing making the film and I just hope as many people as possible get to see it.