From one of the four band members covered in corpse-paint and looking forever sad, to the obscure naming of sub-genres in metal, Heavy Trip is a bit of an odd film to recommend for anyone who isn’t a little bit versed in metal music. Fortunately, I am a big fan of the genre and it’s many obscurities. Referencing popular Scandinavian bands, playing riffs from popular heavy songs, and even having the entire plot centered around attending a metal festival had me giddy. But what Heavy Trip offers for laughs for metal fans will likely only hit 50% of the time for others. It’s a solid buddy comedy that feels strung together by the desire for specific scenes to exist, and not because the narrative demands it, but it’s also a film of references and allusions that elevate it for its niche audience, and will feel too silly for others in the context of its very bland story.
Turo (Johannes Holopainen) has been in an unnamed metal band for a long time, but they’ve just practiced covers in the basement of a reindeer slaughterhouse where a fellow bandmate lives. They finally decide to record an original song (which is fantastic!) and come up with a name for their band: Impaled Rektum. All of this in preparation for their first live show at Northern Damnation — a Norwegian heavy metal festival that they haven’t actually been accepted into yet. A lot of what follows is a satire of the process that goes into creating a metal band; there’s more than just a name. One of the other band members decides to only appear in corpse-paint, and the band tries to get a great promotional image of themselves out in nature. An understanding of what defines metal is explored through a series of vignettes that are held together mainly by small jokes in slightly absurd scenarios.
Heavy Trip is a fun movie, but its laughs are either too specific or born out of familiar scenarios. Turo fancies a girl he went to high school with that runs a flower shop and is also the daughter of a police officer. The only problem is that Turo is awkward, and his main competition in getting her affection is a hotshot musician who performs love ballads as opposed to the death metal music which Impaled Rektum performs. Regardless of any of the humor that comes out of this dynamic, it’s all relatively low-hanging fruit, and worthy more of a snicker than a full laugh.
Ultimately, the problem with Heavy Trip is that it meanders for far too long in the process of making a band, taking an hour to finally get to them going to the festival. As a metal fan, I appreciated the film more than I enjoyed it. It’s got enough jokes to sustain itself and the music is all really good — if you like metal music. If you don’t, a lot of this film will bore you. It’s a risky endeavor that makes sense coming from Finland where metal reigns supreme, but overseas it won’t quite have the same appeal.
The Fantasia Film Festival runs July 12 – August 2. Visit the official website for more information.