Toronto After Dark 2015: ‘Deathgasm’ and ‘The Diabolical’

Deathgasm (DIR. Jason Lei Howden)


By: Shahbaz Khayambashi

Think to yourself for one moment: what do you imagine when you think of a film entitled Deathgasm?  Jason Lei Howden’s film is basically that.

The plot is simple enough: four teenage New Zealand metalheads decide to form a band, after sneaking into a Varg Vikernes stand-in’s house and coming into possession of music and lyrics to a demonic song which turns the inhabitants of their small town into demons.  The entirety of this exposition takes place in the first act, and it is easily the weakest part of the film – consisting almost entirely of clichés from teenage comedies.  It is only when the film gives up on any semblance of a plot or internal logic and gives in to its gift for absolute insanity that things begin to pick up.

The film’s strongest points are within the dry humour for which the Kiwis have become well known around the genre cinema scene, as well as the nonsense gore scenes that start in the middle of the second act and somehow never stop.  If I were to simplify it to the nth degree, you could say it’s like a cross between Taika Waititi and pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson, with a bit Metalocalypse-esque imagery shoehorned in.  Following with this theme, the performances are also very similar, with the teenage cast mainly dealing in lethargic performances and deadpan slurred dialogue, which somehow works just because the film is from New Zealand.  And, of course, the amount of blood and unique weaponry (car engine, razor blades, sex toys) rivals that of Dead Alive.

There really is not much else to say about this film from a critical standpoint.  It is the sort of film that knows what it is: loud, dumb and fun.  If the viewer likes blood, guts and innovative action sequences, they will love it.  If they are looking for anything beyond surface meaning, they will not.  This is a midnight madness movie, through and through.


The Diabolical (DIR. Alistair Legrand)

Screen shot 2015-10-26 at 12.33.26 AM

By: Shahbaz Khayambashi

There is nothing necessarily bad about Alistair Legrand’s The Diabolical.  It is a perfectly serviceable film about a single mother raising her children in a haunted house inhabited by several CGI spirits.  The problem with this film is that none of it is new.  The film adds nothing to the world of cinematic horror: every plot turn, every scare, every single story element has appeared elsewhere and it was usually executed more successfully (although the CGI scare shots in The Diabolical are quite well done, even if they lack originality or substance).  It takes until well into the third act for the film to have an idea of an original concept.

When a face first came through a wall, causing the wall to take its shape (perhaps the single most overused shot in 21st century mainstream horror), I realized that this film had no interest in being innovative. Disappointingly, Legrand tells a rote story in hopes to perhaps make some money along the way and earn filmmaking credibility with his feature film debut.

Ali Larter’s performance as the mother of the leading family is better than audiences tend to receive in mainstream horror.  Larter does a rather good job in a film that is undeserving of her, but it is difficult to tell how much of her performance is at fault due to generic direction and writing.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many of the other performances, including the villainous spirit who loses any sense of dread as soon as he returns to his corporeal state;  the film might as well be a monologue.

Basically, The Diabolical wasn’t the worst film at the festival, but it was also not the best.  I do not regret watching it, nor do I resent it.  I just know that, in a month’s time, if someone asks me what I thought of it, I would not rave or rant;  I would have to stop for a moment and think about whether or not I actually saw it.


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Toronto After Dark: @TADFilmFest
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