If you haven’t been paying attention to the latest foreign horror imports, than you’ve been missing out on some tremendous films. While you might assume that a majority of these are European efforts, there’s another locale that’s making quite a genre name for itself – New Zealand. Peter Jackson started with films like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, but that was long ago, and since those years, New Zealand hasn’t bothered to traverse the waters of horror with much enthusiasm – until now. Thanks to producer Ant Timpson, a frequent collaborator with Alamo’s Tim League, New Zealand is once again making a name for itself in a forgotten genre, and Deathgasm is just the latest shining example.
With a title like Deathgasm, filmmaker Jason Lei Howden could have been setting himself up for utter disaster, but thankfully that’s far from the case. You can read my full thoughts in my review from the film’s World Premiere at South by Southwest, but I can assure you that Howden was given full creative license to make a film ballsy enough to earn its bloody, metal-loving stripes. Credit Timpson and his all-star producers, Andrew Beattie and Morgan Stewart, with letting Howden push whatever boundaries he felt like, allowing for some head-splitting, sex-toy-induced carnage.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Executive Producer Ant Timpson while he was in Austion for the film’s premiere, where we discussed the state of New Zealand horror films and how Deathgasm fits into that world. Read on to discover how Deathgasm was born from a single sentence, hear why New Zealand just isn’t a marketable place for the horror genre as a whole, and learn what Timpson Films is working to bring us next!
WGTC: So things got pretty wild at the post-screening Q&A after Deathgasm’s premiere last night – I’m assuming everyone’s been enjoying their South by Southwest experiences? [Laughs]
Ant Timpson: Well the party beforehand was extraordinary. You’re always a little nervous before a premiere, so we might have been imbibing a little, but the director was just into his movie! We came onto the plane with the film hot out of post-production, so we were Skyping with him, giving notes at the last second, and he hadn’t experienced Deathgasm in a cinema yet. We were all really getting into the film. It’s going to play great in dorm rooms – it’s a film you want to see with your mates. Anyone who’s been in a bromance, a tight high school friendship where you’re in your own scene, they’re going to seriously dig it.
WGTC: So are you a metalhead yourself?
Ant Timpson: Not really – I’m a music fan across the board. You go through stages when you fall in love with certain types, but I would not call myself a complete metal aficionado. As we say in the film, “Death to false metal” – you don’t want to be that guy, but Jason Lei Howden is legit, the other producer, Andrew Beattie, is legit as hell, and most of the crew were as well. If there was a Rick Astley, I was that guy on set. I love a lot of the bands on the soundtrack, especially the hometown ones like Beastwars. You can’t escape that music back home. We love supporting our own stuff.
WGTC: You mention supporting things from home, which for you is New Zealand, but how much of the international aspect plays into the filmmaking process? I noticed a few jokes about American time zones and whatnot thrown in Deathgasm.
Ant Timpson: You don’t consciously do that, but smart scripts are always going to explore universal stories that’ll resonate with anyone. This is the sort of material that’s easy to translate, anyway. Straight comedy is really hard to play in different cultures, things just don’t seem to gel that well. You have Adam Sandler movies that work really well in some countries, and then bomb elsewhere, but when you’ve got all these horror tropes around it as well, it’s a framework that everyone can hook onto.
New Zealand needed to start making films that could speak to an international audience, because we don’t have a big enough population to make the domestic market viable back home. “Genre” is typically a dirty word as well, not to say that after Peter Jackson and everything, but for a long time we made these dark, gritty films – there’s a documentary about the time period. Young, savvy filmmakers now understand what the scene is internationally, and how you have to elevate your game and compete on that level, otherwise you’re playing to small audiences back home.
WGTC: Deathgasm started as a one-line pitch that won a contest…
Ant Timpson: Literally one line. Like a log line, and then they had a little synopsis with it, and that was the competition. Then there was some imagery, a poster, to sell the tone they were going for. That encompassed Jason’s vision for us, and when we read the synopsis, we got it. Deathgasm was one of our favorites from the start. We went from four hundred projects down to twelve, Jason’s was always in there, then we did some roundtable discussions with experts, US guys and buyers, programmers, and I went around to all my friends internationally, and it all came back as a no brainer. Also, just the title – Deathgasm. It’s kind of crazy when you know you have a really good title, and someone says it’s one of their most anticipated films of South by Southwest just because of what the word represents.