Interview: Director Jason Lei Howden talks Deathgasm, heavy metal, dildos and more

Jason Lei Howden’s Deathgasm, a head-banging brand of kick ass horror, is being let out of its cage in just a few days to tear us all a collective new asshole, which means you have until October 2nd to prepare your brains for its heavy metal infused madness when it arrives in theaters and on VOD. If you’re a regular around these parts then Deathgasm needs no introduction—I reviewed the film (here) out of the Stanley Film Festival back in May and there was nothing else quite like it; the way it blends humor and horror into a world where heavy metal reigns was not only unique, it was entertaining as all hell.

The film is about a couple of metalheads who unwittingly summon a demonoid shitstorm and have to stop a force of pure evil from devouring all of mankind. It’s a bloody, in-your-face kind of film that kicks ass first and ask questions later. And best of all, buried under all the carnage is a wonderful message about being different and embracing the weird—don’t be afraid to like something that other people don’t understand.

The man behind it all, Jason Lei Howden, was kind enough to answer a few questions about his film where we talk about heavy metal, demons, dildos and more. Dig it!

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How did you come up with the idea for Deathgasm?

It was inspired by my teenage Metalhead years, and the crazy shenanigans we used to do. Except back then there were no Demonoids or chainsaws. But heaps of the events like the compass stabbing and the napalm are based on true events.

It’s basically the film every teenage metalhead wanted to see, but that film hasn’t existed until now.

Can you talk a little bit about how the soundtrack came together? It must have been a challenge narrowing down the perfect track list.

I wanted to have a real brutal, underground, balls-to-the-wall metal sound for the film but also the songs had to fit the scenes. Some really great tracks got cut because I couldn’t justify them in the film’s context.

We have death-thrashers Axeslasher, masked black ‘n roll maniacs Midnight, Canadian speed metallers Skull Fist, NZ power-metal band Razorwyre, epic NZ doomers Beastwars, 8 Foot Sativa, Goatesque, Lair of the Minotaur, devil-metal heathens Nunslaughter, Australia’s Elm Street, brutal death-metal Pathology, Norway’s The Wretched End (with legend Samoth), and black metal pioneer turned-prog musician Ihsahn on a track with Devin Townsend doing guest vocals.

There’s a wonderful moment in the movie where Brodie tells Medina what metal means to him. What does it mean to you?

Exactly the same thing, that Metal doesn’t make us angry but it helps us deal with our pain because we can relate to the band’s angst and rage.

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There’s a glorious amount of blood and guts in the film. What was the most challenging thing about using practical effects, and did you ever have to abandon an idea?

I had to abandon most of my ideas! The film was originally 10 times gorier, but I was made to tone it all back because of the budget.

One set piece had Zakk ripping a Demonoids guts out, tying them to the back of his towball, then driving him around town while his flesh ripped off. The Demonoid then hits a fire hydrant square in the nuts and all of his insides become outsides. So Zakk is driving around with a rib cage full of organs bouncing behind the Holden and this hollow husk of Demonoid is left.

There are some very interesting weapon choices throughout the film. What would be your go-to weapon in a demon apocalypse?

Before I shot DEATHGASM, I would have said ‘a chainsaw’. But on set I learnt pretty quickly that a chainsaw would be the WORST weapon to kill anyone with. They get snagged in clothes fabric and kick back into your face, the motor gets clogged with blood and shuts down and they stink like shit. I would go the Butch Coolidge route: a Samurai sword all the way. Light, sharp, great reach. And they make you feel like a Ninja badass.

Speaking of interesting weapon choices… there’s a magnificent fight scene in the movie involving a massive dildo. How does one choreograph a fight scene with a dildo (I’m asking for a friend)?

We had a phenomenal stunt coordinator, Steve McQuillan from X-One stunts. Steve is a trained expert in Dildo Fu, and can hit a target with a thrown vibrator from 30 yards.

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How well do you think Brodie and Zakk would do in the Evil Dead universe?

They would kick way more ass than Ash given the chance. Zakk alone would take out half the deadites by lunchtime.

I was scouring Deathgasm’s IMDb page and I read something that I couldn’t ignore. According to the trivia section, it’s rumored that if you play the film muted while simultaneously listening to Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death’, it syncs up perfectly. Is there any truth to this?

I can’t comment. You’ll have to get baked and try it at home yourself.

Do you have any future projects in the works that you can tell us about?

I just finished another script a few days ago, ‘Generator’ which is kind of a Machinist meets lovecraft horror. I’m working on a bunch of other projects too, but it’s just down to getting the right team together. I’m writing Deathgasm 2 as well, but it will only happen if I can take it up a few notches gore and metal-wise. 11 notches. That is the right amount of notches.

What’s your favorite metal album of the year so far?

Just streamed Black Dahlia Murder’s latest, that album kills. Liking Slayer ‘Repentless’ too. It’s a pretty great year for Metal.

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What are your top three essential horror movies to watch during the Halloween season? 

Trick R’ Treat is a really smart portmanteau horror. All the stories are really strong.

I’m a huge Night Of The Demons fan, it has some awesome makeup FX and great characters. And Linnea Quigley is just so damn hot. I love the payoff at the end too, which plays on a certain Halloween urban legend.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a film I keep coming back to every year. Don’t get me wrong, the original is a masterpiece but I’ve seen it so many times now. Halloween III got panned when it was first released out because it doesn’t star Michael Myers, but it’s actually a really creepy Halloween film.

The fate of the world rests on your shoulders, but you have to challenge a horror movie villain to a fistfight in order to save it, who do you pick? I asked Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead this exact same question (here) and they picked a villain that didn’t even have arms, so…

Of course those guys did, pussies! And there is two of them also, so it’s pretty much Justin and Aaron publicly announcing that they want to beat up a disabled person. That’s low.

Yeah, so I would take on Gage, that toddler from Pet Sematary. I mean he is tough with that scalpel and all. But you said a fistfight, right? I would annihilate him. Just DESTROY him.

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

6 thoughts on “Interview: Director Jason Lei Howden talks Deathgasm, heavy metal, dildos and more

  1. Is heavy metal fandom essential to enjoying this picture? I can take metal in (very) small doses, but if “Deathgasm” is basically an extended Cannibal Corpse promo vid, I’ll pass.

    So, is there anything in this one for us metal-skeptics?

    1. Absolutely! While the movie is very heavy metal themed, it’s an absolute gem of a horror film that feels like something pulled right out of the ’80s alongside Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead. It’s super gory, very funny, and features a bunch of really fun characters that kick a ton of demon ass. The heavy metal angle of the film is just part of its identity and really makes it stand out, but there’s certainly a lot to love about the film even if you don’t like metal.

      1. Okay, sounds good. “Return of the Living Dead” is a really good parallel, in fact, since it happened to feature L.A. punk rock (the music of my squandered youth!) but didn’t use it as a major plot point so much as flavoring. You could enjoy the picture without being a hardcore Cramps fan, but if you were, the soundtrack and wardrobe were extras.

        If this is the deal with “Deathgasm,” then count me in!

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