Reviews: AAAAAAAAH! & Deathgasm

Some­times, film fes­ti­vals speed by so quickly that there isn’t enough time to pub­lish all of our con­tent. Some­times, the con­tent is so good that we have to pub­lish it later because we love it so much. This is some of that content.

 Poster for  AAAAAAAAH ! by Steve Oram

 Poster for AAAAAAAAH! by Steve Oram

The Van­cou­ver Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val can some­times seem like a very pompous affair, with all of its line-ups and pass hold­ers and fancy venues. It can be refresh­ing when all of the slow-burners are inter­rupted by a real wild card. Though, in the case of this year’sAAAAAAAAH!, directed by British film­maker Steve Oram, I might not use the word ‘refresh­ing’, more likely ‘bizarre’. It was like Coro­na­tion Street but with tea-bagging involved. Or a Planet of the Apes directed by Tommy Wiseau. Whichever of the two you can visu­al­ize more clearly. In plain terms, the film was vio­lent, graphic, and sex­u­ally explicit. The char­ac­ters car­ried out their lives like apes, and I do not mean that metaphorically.

After accli­ma­tiz­ing myself to the bizarre grunts and phal­lic gore as best I could, I saw a very famil­iar story play­ing out onscreen. I was watch­ing a fam­ily drama, albeit a deranged one. The matri­arch of the fam­ily ditches her hus­band and instead gets freaky with a younger man, much to the dis­may of her angsty, brood­ing daugh­ter. While Mom has fun with her new suitor, the daugh­ter seethes in the shad­ows, until even­tu­ally she falls in love with an equally despon­dent fel­low. How­ever, hap­pi­ness can’t last for­ever. I won’t give away the final bit of the movie, but I will say that healthy famil­ial bound­aries are bla­tantly ignored by all. It’s enough to make you nau­seous, to say the least. The char­ac­ters’ ape-like behav­ioural pat­terns are purely shock­ing at first, but even­tu­ally become a sly cri­tique on regres­sion in soci­ety and per­haps a comedic ver­sion of pri­mal patri­archy. Though, I really can’t say any­thing with com­plete con­fi­dence. I know there must have been a the­matic direc­tion within the film, but I was way too busy try­ing to for­get the array of flac­cid mem­bers and food spit­tle. This is not to say that it was a bad film, I just don’t know if I will ever get over it.

Still from Jason Lei Howden’s Death­gasm

Still from Jason Lei Howden’s Death­gasm

A film that I almost over­looked and ended up thor­oughly enjoy­ing was Jason Lei Howden’s Death­gasm. I bought my ticket late in the game and went to the mid-afternoon screen­ing at the Gold­corp Cen­tre for the Arts rather than the evening one a few days ear­lier at the Rio The­atre. Even though I might have missed out on the late night atmos­phere, Death­gasm was still a seri­ous treat. A very bloody, campy, and obscene treat. Exem­plary in its dry, tongue-in-cheek Kiwi humour, this cin­e­matic gore-fest poked the per­fect amount of fun at both cult sen­si­bil­ity and met­al­head culture.

After the death of his mother, Brodie, moves in with his severely reli­gious rel­a­tives and their bully of a son. While find­ing solace in the local record store, Brodie befriends fel­low hard­core fan Zakk, and the two form a band. But when Brodie stum­bles across a decrepit sheet of music and the two decide to play it them­selves, death and ter­ror reign down on their sleepy New Zealand town in the form of a demon-zombie apoc­a­lypse, until only their mis­fit group of friends are left to defeat the abound­ing evil. How­den directs the absur­dity with skill, and uses genre tropes like low-fi spe­cial effects and hyper­bolic char­ac­ter to his advan­tage. How­ever, cult hor­ror is noto­ri­ously misog­y­nis­tic, and though this film tried to break from that pat­tern, it was not entirely suc­cess­ful. The film con­tained three note­wor­thy female char­ac­ters, one being Brodie’s high school crush turned demon-fighting badass, another a low-ranking ser­vant of hell who even­tu­ally usurps the head title, and the third a record store clerk who reads for­tunes on the side. They oper­ate in very dif­fer­ent spheres and never inter­act with one another except dur­ing the film’s cli­max, and though they pos­sess a cer­tain amount of agency they still play a pas­sive role in the film as a whole. I knew it was com­ing, but I still didn’t appre­ci­ate the genre sex­ism. How­ever, apart from those few snags, Death­gasm was still a rau­cous bit of fun, pre­sent­ing itself as a very clever addi­tion to the cult canon.