Interviewing Jason Lei Howden, Director Of The Horror Comedy Deathgasm, "A Blood-Soaked Tribute to Horror Movies & Heavy Metal"
A few months ago Metal Injection posted the trailer for an upcoming horror movie called Deathgasm. Deathgasm is the directorial debut from New Zealand filmmaker Jason Lei Howden and it looks absolutely bonkers! The movie combines heavy metal, an 80s horror movie vibe, tons of gore, and comedy into a throbbing, pus-filled boil of fun in the vain of Peter Jackson's early work. As a huge fan of both horror movies and heavy metal, I've been waiting with baited breath for Deathgasm's arrival here in the states. In the meantime, I decided to reach out to Jason for an interview about his movie and love of heavy metal. Below is a complete transcript of the ensuing email exchange. I hope you miscreants dig it. And don't forget to support indie horror and heavy metal!
MI: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Jason! Can you give Metal Injection readers who may not be familiar with the movie a synopsis of what Deathgasm is about?
Jason: Deathgasm is a blood-soaked tribute to horror movies and heavy metal. A couple of teenage metalheads inadvertently bring about the demonic apocalypse, then have to save the world using THE POWER OF METAL. Which of course means heaps of brutal guitar shredding, corpse paint, and ramming crazy objects through skulls
Deathgasm started as an entry in New Zealand's Make My Movie competition which it ultimately won. Can you give some background on the competition? What is it exactly?
Phase one of the competition was judged on a poster and synopsis – anyone could enter and anybody could vote on their favourite entries. This way the face value market appeal would be instantly apparent. From there each round narrowed down the contestants as film makers were asked to supply a treatment, a promotional video, then in the last round, a script.
When Deathgasm won Make My Movie how prepared were you to start the production process? How developed was the script etc.?
The script was written for the last round of the competition before we won. I wrote it in nine days and then spent two weeks tightening it. I listened to metal non-stop the whole time and put in all the stuff the 16-year-old-me wanted in a film: gore, brutal metal, tits, more gore, dick jokes. I just ran with it, and it seemed to work.
It seems like many of the effects in Deathgasm are practical in nature. Why opt for that approach instead of adding the effects digitally in post-production?
I work in VFX but I believe horror needs to be organic. Gore doesn't date like computer effects, it's more visceral and horrific. As a horror fan I want to see more practical effects, and I don't think I'm alone.
Deathgasm was funded in part by the Film Commission of New Zealand. How did you get the government to pay for a heavy metal splatter comedy?
Ant Timpson brought the NZFC and Dark Sky MPI together for the competition, and they chose the winners. So yeah, there is NZ tax payer money behind this offensive, gore-covered madness. Just think about that.
What's your background as a film maker? Who or what are some of your influences?
I went to film school about 10 years ago, and have made a handful of shorts and music videos since. For Deathgasm I tried to tap into 80's VHS classics like Return Of the Living Dead, Night Of The Demons and Trick Or Treat. Also movies like The Goonies and Monster Squad. I love films about a group of misfits and losers having to save the day.
There are many other influences and inspirations in there, Dungeons & Dragons, Garbage Pail Kids, Boris Vallejo. And the film is semi-biographical, many of my own experiences as a teenage metalhead are in the film.
Deathgasm's soundtrack is made up of underground metal bands. How did you decide which acts to include?
I wanted to have a mixture of genres, there is black, death, stoner, thrash. But all the bands are handpicked by me, I approached them personally and went from there.
Getting bands like Midnight, Nunslaughter, Pathology, Axeslasher and Skull Fist on the soundtrack really puts you in the characters world, and it's the best music to watch heads being ripped off to. I also did guest vocals on NZ band Bulletbelt's "Deathgasm" theme song.
But my proudest moment was when Norwegian legends Emperor agreed to be on the soundtrack. We have two songs from In The Nightside Eclipse on Deathgasm, I have been thrashing this album since I was 14 and it's still my favorite black metal record. They are the nicest guys, too!
Nothing is confirmed yet, but hopefully we can release a film soundtrack this year.
How did you get into heavy metal?
I was always drawn to the album covers in record shops when I was a kid, Iron Maiden and Mötley Crüe especially, but my parents were very strict.
Then when I was 13, a schoolmate played Cannibal Corpse's Tomb Of The Mutilated. It blew my mind, it was like someone had taken a tape recorder down to the depths of hell. From that point on I was an addict. I started out listening to Morbid Angel, Deicide, Pestilence and Sepultura, then discovered the early stuff like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest later, which is a bit backwards.
Can you think of one sentence that would get Metal Injection readers excited about seeing Deathgasm?
If you took a baby, got it really stoned, made it listen to Skinless on repeat while an endless stream of horror movies played on a shitty old VHS player, feeding it only pizza, beer, and disapproval, then after a couple of decades it would end up making Deathgasm (Please don’t do that to an actual baby, you sick bastards).
When and where can metalheads see Deathgasm?
I'm proud to be opening the Fantaspoa Festival in Brazil Friday 15th May, I'll be flying over to present the film too. Deathgasm is also playing at the Seattle Film Festival the same night. Seattle band Paralyzer are performing live before the screening, so don't miss that.
Fri 5th June I'll be heading to present the film at The Sydney Film Festival, Australia.
Deathgasm has also just been announced for Fantasia Festival in Montreal and NIFFF in Switzerland, both in July. It's fucking world domination.
I would recommend getting to these festival screenings if you can, the drunken audience reaction is like no other modern cinema experience. The cops had to do crowd control at SXSW in Austin. I thought I was going to be pepper-sprayed, it was mental.
But for fans that can't make it, we will be announcing VOD/DVD/BluRay release plans soon.
Is there anything else you want to tell Metal Injection readers while you've got their attention?
I just hope metal fans appreciate what we are trying to do with the film, and have a fucking blast. I'm currently writing Deathgasm Part 2: Live Undead, but it will only happen if people get behind it and support indie horror.
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