Because your movie watching doesn’t contain nearly enough “symphonic post-apocalyptic reindeer-grinding Christ-abusing extreme war pagan Fennoscandian metal,” Finnish import Heavy Trip is here to rectify that glaring oversight.
In a big picture sense, Heavy Trip is kind of a mess. It takes too long to get to the point, isn’t always sure what movie it wants to be, and an early, grounded-in-reality approach eventually cedes the way to soaring absurdity. That said, it’s also a total heavy metal blast. And while it doesn’t find its stride until the aforementioned soaring absurdity, the rest remains quirky and goofy and strange enough to maintain interest.
Impaled Rektum is the brutalist band to ever haunt the basement of a family reindeer slaughterhouse playing metal covers. All Turo (Johannes Holopainen) wants is to play music with childhood friends Jynkky (Antti Heikkinen), Pasi/Xytrax (Max Ovaska), and Lotvonen (Samuli Jaskio), and woo Miia (Minka Kuustonen) the cute normal girl at the flower shop. But he’s painfully shy, vomits when he’s on stage, works a dead end job mopping up shit at a psych ward, and everyone in their small, redneck town thinks he’s a freak and a weirdo. That all changes, however, when they write a song—the best metal song ever—and get a gig at a fest in Norway.
For the bulk of the film, Heavy Trip plays out like a typical quirky small town outcast saga. Turo and company toil in crappy jobs, deal with harassment from locals, and struggle to pursue their passion, dreaming beyond the bounds of their closed-minded environs. It’s the eccentricities of the characters that carry it through. Pasi is a librarian and metal savant; Lotvonen’s family wants him to take over the family business, the reindeer slaughterhouse; and Jynkky is at war with a particular traffic camera and has died, twice. Even the side characters have their own foibles and peculiarities—as hateable as they are, they’re also delightful and odd in their own rights.
While silly and off-kilter, all of this is anchored in a relative reality. But what begins as an escalating series of lies eventually leads to sheer, utter mayhem once the Rektum boys finally hit the road. It takes far too long to get there, spinning its wheels for much of middle, but once writer/director duo Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren cut loose, things get wild. We’re talking Viking LARPers, violent mental patients, mistaken international terrorist attacks, grave robbing, a crowd surfing corpse, and a government official who states, “I love Satan as much as any woman in her 40s,” among other bits of mayhem.
Working with cinematographer Harri Räty, Laatio and Vidgren make excellent use of the sweeping Scandinavian landscapes. The epic, isolated exteriors, combined with equally epic song selections, make for a striking and strangely lovely aesthetic—strange for a movie with multiple projectile vomits and a vat of reindeer blood accidentally spilled on a bystander. And, of course, Heavy Trip has the most metal soundtrack since Deathgasm and The Devil’s Candy.
While it’s a jagged, scattered, unevenly paced and constructed, and occasionally uncertain in overall direction, Heavy Trip delivers a damn fine time, peaking with moments of absurd metal glory, both for those who head bang and those who don’t. [Grade: B]