Death Metal (2023)

Rating: C+

Dir: Michael Kuciak
Star: Shadia Martin, KateLynn E. Newberry, Chris Richards, Tom Kondilas 

Despite the “official” date, it appears this is actually a few years old: I found an IndieGoGo campaign from 2019, where filming had already been completed. I guess sometimes these things just take time. What you have here is another entry in the heavy metal/horror crossover field. For someone who isn’t a metalhead, I’ve seen more than my fair share of these, from the decent like Deathgasm through to the utterly terrible (if entertaining, for all the wrong reasons) Verotika. This sits somewhere in the middle, lacking the inventiveness to pull off what it wants to be – basically, Evil Dead in a recording studio – yet with enough self-awareness in its cheek to paper over the rougher edges.

Death metal band Abyssinister are going through a rough patch, to the point there’s a running joke that most people think they broke up. They decamp to a recording studio in the country to regroup and lay down some new music. Founder Ivan decides to include a piece he found in Europe called “The Devil’s Concerto”, supposed the result of a pact between its composer and Satan. No prizes for guessing how that works out, as the track lives up to its Satanic reputation. In particular, Anya (Newberry) is possessed by something very unpleasant, and it’s not long before she’s gone full demonic entity, and is intent on putting the “death” back into “death metal”. It’s up to Ivan’s girlfriend Shadia (Martin) to figure out how to stop them becoming a Slayer tribute.

While it’s clear the makers have considerably more love for the music than I do, I really liked that the film didn’t take the scene too seriously. Indeed, there are times where this felt close to Spinal Tap, such as the way nobody can figure out how to pronounce the band’s name, or the decision of one member (Richards) to legally change his name to “Baphomet.” The highlight on the comedic side is likely the catchy ukulele fireside ditty, which includes lyrics such as, “Fire up the chainsaw/Hack all their heads off.” As things progress, however, the film wisely puts the humour to one side, and the subsequent carnage is played admirably straight.

It is a bit sporadic, both in terms of the volume and its execution. Once Evil Dead got going, it basically never stopped, while this seems content to maintain a jogging pace, with occasional bursts of intensity. It’s never boring, helped by a winning performance from Martin who comes over as a very sensible metalhead – that’s laudable, considering they are not a fandom usually depicted as the sharpest tools in the box. However, I was definitely left wanting more volume in the way of gore. I will say: death by impalement on a drum-stick is not something I’ve seen before. Entertaining enough, although fans of the musical genre will probably get more out of this than I. Guess the odds are likely against anyone making a synthpop-themed horror movie…

The film was released by Vipco on region free Blu-Ray on 30th May 2023.