Director: Jukka Vidgren, Juuso Laatio | Screenwriter: Juuso Laatio, Aleksi Puranen, Jari Olavi Rantala, Jukka Vidgren | Cast: Johannes Holopainen, Samuli Jaskio, Antti Heikkinen, Max Ovaska, Minka Kuustonen, Ville Tiihonen | Distributor: Music Box Films | Running Time: 92 min. | MPAA Rating: Not Rated
For a film that features death metal, vomit, and a corpse that gets tossed around at a concert, Heavy Trip manages to be inspiring and even adorable at times. In the same way that films such as Sing Street present aspiring musicians eager to become a hit, this film presents an amateur band of long-haired men in a Finnish village hoping to play a metal gig and become rock stars. And it’s a wildly outrageous adventure with a familiar journey but a sound all-together its own.
The amateur band that later names itself Impaled Rektum is having a late start when it comes to hitting it big. They’ve been playing in a basement for twelve years, struggling to find just the right sound before they put out a demo tape. They’re not keen on taking gigs either. When not tossing around song ideas and riffs, they have lesser jobs to attend to of working the local hospital, library, and reindeer slaughterhouse. They’re an eclectic group, led by the long-haired Turo as the lead vocalist. He has a crush on the local flower shop girl, a snobby lounge singer to best, and a vomit problem to master when too nervous to perform.
The rest of the band all have their special quirks. The drummer seems to have knack for finding the right sound and one of the guitar players has an encyclopedic knowledge of metal to quickly detect when what they’re playing is unoriginal. Their quest to be the ultimate death metal band seems lost until they finally find the right sound Back to the Future style when a reindeer becomes jammed in a grinder. A very metal origin story.
After they find the right song, most of the pieces seem to fall into place. A visitor from Norway gives their demo a listen and decides to give them a shot at a festival. The town hears news of this and there’s a newfound love for the misfit lot of long hair and leather. A road trip follows and the collective of hard-playing metal heads find themselves on a very zany adventure to get to that metal festival and become rock legends.
Though the third act goes completely off the rails with its comicality, especially for featuring a rocket-launching military, a turban themed bachelor party, and a Viking ship, there’s an undeniable sweetness for these Satan-worshiping musicians. They struggle in life and music, earning and losing the respect of their community at a wicked pace. They go about their music-making with an innocent obliviousness of how to get themselves recognized. For finding a professional photo of their band, they rely on a traffic camera to snap their photo when a car zooms by, asking the police later if they can have their picture. They want to have pyrotechnics at their first live performance in town but it goes horribly awry with one member running out of the venue aflame. And even when the story turns fairly grim and highly illegal, there’s a certain cartoonish glee that always keeps the heart more present amid the loud and angry lyrics most refined.
Heavy Trip has all the makings of a rock comedy destined to be revered among a midnight crowd of metal-loving lugs. While it does play loose with its own rules at times, the charms rarely wear off, to the point where one of the only band members wearing a KISS style outfit of makeup and spikes looks more cute than intimidating. Try as the band might, they’re an admirably likable group of guys who just happen to play, as they put it, Reindeer-grinding and Christ-abusing, among other subgenre labels.