Interview by Keri O’Shea
If you haven’t seen Deathgasm yet then, if I may, it’s time you climbed out from under that nice, safe rock of yours and ascended to the top of a towering crag (preferably where there are some obliging women in chainmail to cling to your legs, Manowar-style). It was one of my favourite, laugh-out-loud movies of 2015, as well as a real kickback for the sort of splattery gore we rather rarely see these days and as such, I’m delighted to see it going from strength to strength this year too: it gets a UK release in a few short weeks, and news of a sequel in the offing is music to my ears, thus giving us the idea to catch up with director Jason Lei Howden for a quick chat about the film, his career to date and his future plans.
BAH: Deathgasm made a big impact in 2015 – so many people rate it as one of their favourite films of the year, so congratulations on that! First up, why did you choose to base your horror movie on metal fandom – is it an idea you’ve had waiting in the wings for a while?
JLH: Thanks! It’s great that it clicked with so many people. I never had any expectations other that I hoped my friends would get a laugh out of it. All of the things I write are based on life experiences, so it seemed inevitable that I would do a story about metalheads at some point. Maybe my next film will be about my Spice Girls phase?
(BAH: quietly thinks this would be an excellent idea, if it was suitably grisly)
BAH: One of the things I commented on in my review was the sense of fun in the film – not just from the OTT gore, but from the fact it felt like it was on metal’s side, laughing with that genre, not pointing and laughing from a distance. Is that a fair assessment?
JLH: Totally. I didn’t want to go full ‘Bill & Ted’ metalbro. Instead I wanted to show that, despite the clothes and tastes in extreme music, metalheads are just normal people. I was definitely coming from a fan’s point of view. It’s weird, I keep finding subconscious metal references in the film, not things I intended. After Lemmy passed, someone said ‘Great you had that Motörhead joke in the film’. I didn’t know what they were talking about – then they pointed out that a character dies after getting an engine dropped on his skull. I had no idea.
BAH: You’ve had a career in film for a long while, having worked in different capacities on many successful movies: how well did this prepare you for finally getting into the director’s chair?
JLH: I’ve been in the industry since I left high school. It’s hard to say; it’s been such a big part of my life for so long I don’t really know anything else. I’ve been doing VFX for the last 6-7 years, which is great, but you are often concentrating on one frame, or even one pixel – so it’s very abstract. I think it taught me a lot about shot composition though. But the best tool that a director can have is empathy, even with a film as silly and gory as Deathgasm. Only life can teach you that. The audience needs to relate to the characters on a human level. After that, you can take them anywhere you want.
BAH: On that note, there’s been talk that the Deathgasm sequel is happening: can you tell us anything at all about the new screenplay? And were you always keen to keep the door open for further films for these characters?
JLH: I hope it happens. It’s a lot more ambitious, and splatter movies are hard to sell. But it’s set in the future, Brodie is older and washed up, trying to get his life back together. The world has changed but Brodie hasn’t adapted well. And there is SO MUCH GORE: the intro sequence has more gore that the first Deathgasm altogether, and it just gets more extreme. Deathgasm got looked down upon in some circles for being too crude, so the next one is going to be twice as vulgar…
BAH: So – why go for the gore? What is it that you enjoy so much about shooting the gory stuff, and why do you think audiences like it so much?
JLH: All good humour is based on human suffering, from Charlie Chaplin to internet FAIL videos, and I personally think Splatstick movies are the ultimate extension of that. I see them as Looney Tune cartoons for adults, over the top, unrealistic and fun as hell!
Deathgasm will be released in the UK on February 29th, 2016. You can keep up with Jason Lei Howden via Twitter.