Cult-classic Kiwi film Deathgasm (2015) is getting a sequel, after director Jason Lei Howden raised half a million dollars on Kickstarter in just 30 days. The filmmaker balanced the books not only by auctioning sex toys from the first film, but by using leftover gore and ‘male anatomical props’ from other colourful New Zealand screen projects.
Deathgasm 2: Goremageddon will begin filming in 2024, following a Kickstarter campaign that raised $NZ530,000 in pledges - thanks largely to followers in the US, Mexico, Germany and Canada, where Deathgasm has a devoted fanbase of “Gasmheads”.
The campaign makes the new film the second-highest-ever crowdfunded Kiwi film on Kickstarter — just behind the 2015 campaign for What We Do in the Shadows to have an American release.
The fundraising campaign was as colourful as the Deathgasm brand itself. Across October, Howden and organisers auctioned off a range of heavy metal merchandise, props from the first film, the right to “Come and be killed” in the new film — not to mention auctioning $11,000 worth of sex toys, including a dildo that sold for over $4000.
“We Googled the most expensive sex toys in the world and ours would be number five — depending how furiously someone is updating that list,” Howden says.
Deathgasm was made after it won the Make My Horror Movie competition in 2013. It changed Howden’s life and enabled him and his wife and co-writer Sarah Howden to travel to over a dozen countries and present it to fans at film festivals.
The Deathgasm sequel sees hero Brodie mourn the death of his friend Zakk, enter a ‘Metal Quest’ battle-of-the-bands competition, and soon enough resurrect not only his relationship with heroine Medina but plenty of zombies, including his undead best mate.
Howden, 44, grew up in the 1980s when both VHS horror and heavy metal were experiencing peak popularity.
“Heavy metal and horror have always been dark, grungy cousins,” Howden says. “This film has been a chance to update the genre.”
He believes it’s good timing, considering our brand of dry Kiwi humour has been well-established for overseas viewers. “I think that, post-Flight of the Conchords, Americans have come to love the way New Zealanders make fun of ourselves. Our modesty – it appeals.”
There was plenty of humour in Howden’s other feature film, Guns Akimbo, filmed in Auckland in 2019 with Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, whom Howden hopes to work with again.
Howden has been receiving a helping hand — as well as help with some other appendages — to cover the props needed for the new film. “A lot of the gore, gore rigs, makeup and fake body parts from the first film came off the 2013 Evil Dead, there were buckets of blood left over – and other appendages came from Spartacus. So instead of having to manufacture a prop, we just used some leftovers. We are totally prepared to do the same again for the sequel.
“To be honest, I’ve used Spartacus penises in two films. A rubber penis was used on Daniel Radcliffe in Guns Akimbo, and he was quite flattered about how big it was! Spartacus must have had a lot of rubber penises lying around for 11 years. They’re still in pretty good condition.
“I’ve heard there is another Spartacus series being filmed in New Zealand soon, so I’m sure we can smuggle some prosthetic dongs from their studio and put them to good use.”
Howden is still by turns amused, bewildered and flattered by the colourful responses to the first Deathgasm film. “I still get a lot of people posting pictures of tattoos of the movie, people dress up as the characters for Halloween - there is erotic fan art, too.”
Walmart — which has 10,000 stores — played a strange role in spreading the popularity of the first film via DVD. “They released it as Heavy Metal Apocalypse because the word Deathgasm was too offensive for customers. Strangely they Photoshopped guns into the DVD cover — but when we did Guns Akimbo they Photoshopped the guns out. So they don’t know what they want!”
Many horror and metal elements come full circle in the forthcoming film, with the frontman of one of the metal bands celebrated in the first film, Matt Heafy of Trivium, set to create the score for Goremageddon. Legendary shock rockers GWAR will also contribute a cameo. A video game and comic book series are also expected.
While the new film is getting funding from producers in New Zealand, Australia and Canada after the NZ Film Commission declined to fund it, Howden says New Zealand does value its long-established tradition of splattery horror-comedy.
“While it’s a niche audience we’re going for, at the same time Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, Braindead and Meet the Feebles changed the way people viewed New Zealand cinema. He went on to do Lord of the Rings but kept his gory tendencies — and every New Zealand filmmaker owes a debt to that.”