Death metal horror film Deathgasm wins funding

February 13, 2014 –
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You may have read our previous coverage of Deathgasm, the metal-themed horror film that independent producer Jason Lei Howden of New Zealand intends to make. The film, which focuses on the story of two teenage boys who unwittingly summon an ancient evil entity known as The Blind One, will begin shooting in another eight to ten weeks.

Deathgasm is able to be produced because its producers won funding from the Make My Horror Movie competition designed to foster higher quality independent horror films. “With some of the most inventive and shocking gore ever captured, Deathgasm will gush bodily fluids, rain limbs and tickle your funny bone, before tearing it out and giving you a stiff beating with it,” the film’s prospectus promised.

Funds in the form of $200,000 will enable the filmmakers to create the final movie. The film idea beat out 400 other entries and will be funded by Make My Movie, the NZ Film Commission, MPI Media USA and nzherald.co.nz. Director Jason Lei Howden is currently seeking death metal bands who would be willing to allow their songs to be used on the soundtrack, with a preference for underground acts.

The relationship between heavy metal and horror movies

February 11, 2014 –

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Apparently Kirk Hammett’s Fear FestEvil went off without a hitch, bringing together metal fans and horror movie fans in a celebration of movie artifacts, horror movie personalities and metal bands saluting their favorite genre of film.

The festival featured performances by Exodus, Death Angel and Carcass, but also had as guests Kerry King (Slayer), Scott Ian (Anthrax/SOD), Doyle (Mistfits) and of course Hammett (Metallica) himself. In addition, you could meet movie legends like Boris Karloff’s wife and son, the man in the Godzilla suit Haruo Nakajima and a number of a directors and actresses from horror movies over the years.

The most interesting quote of the day however came from Hammett himself, who outlined the reasons for the relationship between metal and horror movies:

“There’s a lot of horror elements that have been used in heavy metal for a long time ago. I mean, Black Sabbath was named after a movie. And that was the amazing thing. I was a horror fan and then I became a music fan and then I discovered hard rock and heavy metal and I’d see all these little pieces of imagery or song titles or lyrics borrowed from horror films throughout all these heavy metal bands. They’re made up of the same ingredients. For me, a good horror movie is fun, dynamic, exciting to watch, peaks and valleys. A good heavy metal song, for me, is the same way — exciting to listen to, peaks and valleys, really fun and energetic.”

This leads to the broader question of the connection between metal and horror movies on an artistic level. While many writers have focused on the economic connections, shared fanbase, or similar aesthetic, few have analyzed the question as Hammett has by showing how the two gesture in artistically similar ways. But this resembles statements made by Black Sabbath about the invention of early metal:

One day I thought that it seemed strange that a lot of people spend so much money to see scary movies. Nobody really wanted to listen to us, so we decided to play slightly scary music. We liked it and, yeah, that’s how it all got started. That’s the story of Black Sabbath.

As many commentators have noted, Black Sabbath came out of the late 1960s when “flower power” was still in full flourish. The band wanted to inject a note of darker reality into the notion that one could simply peace out and all would be well. In the world that Black Sabbath introduced, darkness was preeminent but invisible, much like the threatening characters in horror movies who owing to their supernatural or psychotic states can never be pinned down and isolated.

Over the years, metal has cemented its relationship with horror films with lyrical and topical allusions aplenty. As various other cultural movements run themselves over cliffs like drunken parties touring the countryside, and yet metal (and horror films) endures, it might make sense to wonder if those who see the darkness were correct after all.

Interview with filmmaker Ryan Oliver

November 9, 2013 –

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Continuing our coverage about the corresponding nature of horror movies and metal, as well as our continuing content of the Housecore Horror Film Festival, we present an interview with metal enthusiast and filmmaker Ryan Oliver from Deathblow Productions.

What initiated your interest in making films?

It’s a long chain of events starting with me watching the Son of Svenghoulie (local horror host) as a little kid, then making some backyard movies with the neighbor kids to theatre studies in college. At around age 30, I was an actor/writer/FX artist who had moved from Chicago to LA, and become immediately disenchanted with acting. I hung it up and got a job in a film vault at Technicolor, FX freelance work, and I wrote a shit-ton of scripts. Eventually I landed back in my hometown and was determined to stay connected to the industry and adapt the ‘big fish/small pond’ attitude towards things. I decided to start directing my own material, never looked back.

How would you compare your work with mainstream Hollywood types of productions? Are mainstream movies too predictable? If so, how do you overcome this hurdle?

Yes, a great many of them are quite predictable. But I suppose that’s a symptom of having millions of dollars at stake, making ‘safe’ choices. I don’t have to deal with that, so I’m not the best one to ask. When it comes to Deathblow, I can pretty much do anything I want/afford to do. I have no one to answer to. So, I try to write to my instincts and from my gut while keeping things as interesting and unique as possible. As a director who’s still trying to fight his way into the club, I have my own unique set of obstacles. I think it’s wasteful of my time to consider what others have going for them where I should be focusing on my own future. I will say this, I got tired of complaining about movies when I hadn’t gone through the process myself. It’s fucking hard to make a movie and to have people want to watch it, it’s double hard. So many things can go wrong from the music, talent, edit, fx, to your own idea sucking. So now that I made one and people seem to dig it, I don’t feel like the fat guy yelling at athletes from the grandstands anymore.

Being that you were featured at the Housecore Horror Film Fest, which featured both metal and horror movies, how does metal correlate to your tastes in music? Which bands have stuck with you throughout the years?

It’s not the only genre I listen to, but it’s ahead by a land-mile. Since you brought up Housecore, I’ll start with all Phil Anselmo projects. He’s an incredible frontman and I’ve bought everything he’s put out since ‘Cowboys’ I like a lot of Doom- Yob,Electric Wizard type stuff. Naturally, I’m drawn to a lot of Chicago bands like Plague Bringer, Harpoon, Witchbanger, The Atlas Moth, Indian, Pelican, Wolvhammer, Lair of the Minotaur, Bongripper, Weekend Nachos, Sweet Cobra, etc. I seek out a lot of soundtrack/soundscape stuff that is great to write or create to- Karl Sanders’ (Nile) solo albums are terrific. If I have to pick an ultimate inspiration it’s The Misfits, I know they’re not metal, but I really latched onto them from the moment I heard them. I was obsessed with these songs, the lyrics were both brutal and poetically divine and I began to see their discography (77-83) was an audible blueprint of the way I felt about the horror genre in general. For me, it was magical to discover those songs.

Do you think it’s significant that Black Sabbath chose the name of a horror movie for their band? What about that their statement in the past that they saw people enjoyed horror movies, and figured they might enjoy music with the same mood?

Sounds pretty significant to me. I don’t want to question the series of fragile events that led to Black Sabbath’s ‘sound’. I’m just glad it worked out the way it did. They’re so overly associated for pioneering metal that it feels too obvious to even bring up at times. I guess it explains their absence from my response to the last question.

Has horror movie music influenced metal? In what ways? Are there any specific instances you can think of?

I’m not a musician. I can’t play a lick of anything, so I may be totally full of shit, but when I think of, I guess you could say, stereotypical horror movie music I think of brooding moments punctuated by ‘stingers’. You know, slow strings or piano keys before a jarring ‘startle’. I hear that in metal often, bands that utilize a ‘slow to fast’ structure. Organs are another one. When I hear a pipe organ I think of two things: Classic monster movies and King Diamond. It’s a tough question, I guess I feel clumsy answering it.

Are there any similar emotions between metal and horror movies?

You know what’s interesting to me is how tough it is to fit metal into a horror film without overdoing it. You’d think it’d be like peanut butter and jelly but I personally don’t think metal compliments horror that easily. For example, John Carpenter and Allan Howarth composed the music for those early films masterfully, but I didn’t care for the metal score/soundtrack in Ghosts of Mars or JC’s Vampires. I like Carpenter on the Casio Keyboard. All those riffs chewed up the scenery for me. Now, my favorite use of metal in a film is probably Sleep in “Gummo” when the young cat hunters are first introduced tearing ass down that hill on their Mongoose bikes. Gummo isn’t exactly horror…but pretty close!

What other similarities have you found between horror movies and metal?

I have found that, for the most part, the overlapping fan bases are a collective of intelligent, well-balanced people that enjoy their lives and are easy to get along with. At least the ones I hang out with are.

Which horror flicks would you claim have had the biggest impact on your creativity?

Lots of Carpenter, Cronenberg, Exorcist 1&3, Texas Chainsaw 1&2, Everything Argento, Early Romero, Hammer Films, Troma Films, Universal Monsters.

Outside of horror I’m crazy for The Dark Crystal, 70′s cinema, Kubrick, Westerns, lots of Kung Fu & Samuari, Mad Max Trilogy, Cohen Brothers, 50′s Sci Fi, & anything weird or bizarro.

Do you derive inspiration from creating a sort of puzzle, then have the pieces fall together as the story progresses? More than just gore, but something that will stick with the viewer long after they’ve watched?

You said it! Gore, in my opinion, is best used as punctuation to a scene. It shouldn’t be the core content. I mean, it can, but I don’t think that’s wholly effective or the most interesting choice all the time. Situations, story and characters should dictate the terror. The audience will always think of something more twisted than what you can show them. It’s been said a million times, but look at the blood content of Halloween and TCM -a spatter or two at best. But everyone swears they saw it! I subscribe to that, for me it works. Tell a compelling story first, then strategically place your gore. That being said, there are some real blood-bath movies that I’m crazy about, Dead Alive, for me, is the crown jewel.

Thank you for your time. What’s ahead in the near future for Deathblow Productions?

We are in post for a new mid-length film called, “Restoration”. It’s a car culture ghost story about the spirit of a little kid who gets relocated from the prairie to a custom car & motorcycle garage. The place is loud, dirty and not to her taste so she throws a temper-tantrum one night. If you want to see a little girl spree-kill a bunch of Rockabillys then this is the movie for you!

Check out Ryan’s film “Air Conditions”:

“Air Conditions” Full Film from Ryan Oliver on Vimeo.

The relationship between metal and horror films

October 25, 2013 –

carnival_of_soulsWe all know why we distrust public statements by musicians. To be popular in this world, you first must endorse the lifestyle that most people lead, and this usually means praising something from the “edgy” mainstream so everyone knows you’re controlled (and thus “safe”) just like the rest.

Ironic, isn’t it. A whole group of people wanting to be rebels, but unwilling to go past that line that no rebel dare cross and still have the support of the peanut gallery which is encouraging him to rebellion. Reminds me of why the James Dean character finally offed himself in Rebel Without a Cause.

But Ihsahn, formerly of arch-rebels Emperor, is now a safe rebel and he’s giving some interviews praising stuff that you’d expect, if you watched your TV attentively, that “edgy” characters might like. However, some of the subversive is still left in him, so he sneaked in a few goodies in a recent interview:

The dynamics and emotional impact of soundtracks have been great influences on me and much of the reason I wanted to implement orchestral sounds in my music. Jerry Goldsmith’s work with the Omen movies has been an absolute highlight and still is. Also, his use of non-orchestral sounds in this context is very interesting.

However, this isn’t the first mention of horror movies as an inspiration. Just this week, Warbeast’s Bruce Corbitt opined that most of his work was inspired by horror movies. Entombed used horror film riffs in their own work. Black Sabbath tooktheir name from a horror movie, and wrote music to emulate the scary sense of suspense in the dark films they enjoyed.

At what point do we acknowledge this pervasive musical influence, with its own debt to modernist classical, as perhaps the foundational influence on metal itself?

Death metal horror film Deathgasm solicits funding

October 12, 2013 –

deathgasm_(film)-300x450A New Zealand director is campaigning to get his death metal themed horror film funded through a crowdsourced campaign. The film, named Deathgasm, will concern the adventures of social outcasts who discover music that can summon evil.

Written and to be directed by Jason Lei Howden, Deathgasm is designed as a throwback to the early 1980s budget splatter films and the Heavy Metal horror genre. The director promises that Deathgasm will have a soundtrack that “will be the bane of noise control officers the world over.”

The plot revolves around evil, antisocial behavior, Slayer lyrics and black magic, but ultimately turns on a plot point related to music itself. Deathgasm will thus be a themed film with death metal as an integral part of that outlook.

We got a few questions back from director Jason Lei Howden to give our readers more of a feel of where the film is going.

What’s your history with horror movies, and heavy metal?

I’ve been obsessed with horror since I was a kid, and was naturally attracted to the imagery and dark storytelling of Heavy Metal.

When I was really young, I remember seeing Motley Crue and Iron Maiden cassettes and thinking the contents must be the most insanely satanic shit. Which in hindsight seems absurd.

I quickly progressed towards Thrash and Death, those amazing years in the early 90′s, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide. Such a great time for Metal.

What are the connections between Deathgasm and heavy metal? What about death metal specifically?

The characters are teenage outcasts. Death Metal is their only form of release. They won’t be wearing Disturbed t-shirts or anything like that; these kids are pure death fans. They are social rejects but find strength in the music. I want to stress that we aren’t out to parody or make fun of Metal, it’s more of a salute to the genre.

I want heaps of references to the classic bands in there, but if we could get some up and coming Death Metal bands on the soundtrack it would be awesome.

There are some amazing Heavy Metal horror films, and Trick Or Treat is a big influence. But it’s a dormant genre and it’s about time to combine brutal sounds and gore again. Death Metal in particular has imagery with is extremely horror when you think of the album covers and lyrics.

There are also occult and satanic themes, they start to dabble in black music and get in over their heads.

In saying that, I want to clarify that you won’t need to be a Metal fan to enjoy Deathgasm, just like Metalocalypse appeals to a huge audience. Anyone who has felt like an outsider will relate to our characters, and fans of Evil Dead, Bad Taste or the Troma films will love the Deathgasm.

Do you think there’s a horror movie culture? What about a heavy metal, or death metal, culture?

New Zealand is so small it’s hard for me to gauge, but Metal culture seems to be far smaller than it used to be. Because there are so many sub-sub genres now, it’s more fragmented. Maybe Metal is better off being underground, whenever it gets too mainstream it de-fangs it a bit.

Horror seems to be still huge, seeing shows like “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story” on mainstream TV and getting Emmys is surreal.

Can you tell us about your history with film and horror film?

I went to film school and since then have finished a couple of fantasy/post-apocalyptic short films. It’s really hard to get horror funded here, our industry is based around small coming-of-age dramas.

But even if I don’t get funding, I’m adamant I’ll do a horror next. I work as a visual effects (VFX) artist, working up to 80 hours a week. I need to get outside and throw blood and guts around. We are really lucky to have the Make My Horror Movie Competition; it’s a great opportunity.

You’re launching a funding drive for Deathgasm right now. How close are you to what you need? When you get there, what happens?

The winners get $200,000. The project with the most Facebook “likes” gets into the top five. Right now we don’t have many votes compared to some other projects, but we only submitted recently. We would need a couple of thousand more Facebook “likes” to crack in to that threshold.

There is no sign up or spam, if people go to the page and just click the Facebook “like”, then maybe share it with friends it gets the project visibility and lets the judges know there is a market for a brutal Heavy Metal Horror film.

If we don’t win we may develop the idea more and do a Kickstarter campaign. I want it to be a community thing, with an awesome soundtrack and heaps of Death Metal in-jokes and references.

And gory as hell! The Evil Dead remake was shot in NZ and was pretty gory, but we can take it up a notch or two from that. We have some talented friends and contacts in the practical effects industry here, I don’t want to give too much away but we have some awesome death set-pieces planned. We want to keep it practical; VFX gore just doesn’t look right.

If all goes well-ish, meaning according to plan and accounting for life’s little glitches, when will we be able to see this movie? And where (theatres, Netflix)?

Dark Sky films is a partner, they distribute some great horror, recently Frankenstein’s Army and Hatchet 3. So a lot of people are going to see it. I’m unsure about a theatrical release, netflix would be pretty probable. Would be looking at a late 2014/early 2015 release I would say.

For more information, and to support Jason Howden in his quest to make Deathgasm a reality, please visit the funding page and show support for this project.