There’s been a fair few comedy films based around Heavy Metal bands but this one is fairy unique in that it’s aspirational and never mocks it’s subjects, all involved clearly have a love for the music and the idea of taking a leap in to the unknown, even if your mistakes sometimes have consequences. The cinematic debut of directors Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren (who also wrote the script along with Aleksi Puranen and Jari Olavi Rantala) they handle the material as if it’s the twentieth film they’ve made and make the comedy seem effortless, which is quite the skill indeed.
In a tiny shitty village in Finland Turo Moilanen (Johannes Holopainen) is the singer in a heavy metal band who have never played a gig despite practicing for twelve years, as they refuse to take the stage until they’ve written their own songs. Turo has to put up with homophobic abuse from locals just because of his long hair, the police accuse him of smuggling drugs and local singer Jouni Tulkku (Ville Tiihonen) mocks him as he feels threatened by the fact that the village florist Miia (Minka Kuustonen) clearly has the hots for him when he wishes to seduce her too. All in all it’s not much of a life, and spurred on by such misery he and the rest of the band made up of guitarist Lotvonen (Samuli Jaskio), drummer Jyrki Kalevi ‘Jynkky’ Pätsi (Antti Heikkinen) and bassist Pasi (Max Ovaska), bizarrely create a song based around the noise a dead reindeer makes when ground up. Soon they’re producing “Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer Grinding Christ Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian Metal”, which is better than it sounds, I promise.
After a chance meeting with a Norwegian festival organiser they give him their demo tape and when Turo mentions to Miia that they might have a gig word spreads that they have. Everyone in the band is overjoyed and Turo doesn’t have the heart to tell them that he’s yet to hear anything, especially as the whole town is quickly enamoured with them. Turo’s lies continue to get out of hand as he claims the gig will be on Norwegian tv, but just before their first gig in a local hotel he gets a call saying there’s no room for them on the festival bill and due to nerves as they burst in to song Turo vomits all over the mayor, and angrily comes clean about the Norway gig. Is this the end for our intrepid heroes? As we’re only 52 minutes in, no, no it is not.
There’s some very funny moments from start to finish including when Pasi dresses up Kiss-style in an outfit which includes antlers, the band use a speed camera to get a promo photo, Turo gets in to a fight with a Wolverine (no, not that one), and each time the band describe their music as Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer Grinding Christ Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian Metal it’s context will raise a huge smile. As will the antics of the Norwegian border patrol and a bachelor party dressed up as Jesus and his disciples which includes the beautifully daft line “Listen I love Satan as much as any woman in their forties but you are coming in for interrogation right this moment”. The sequence is a little sillier than the rest of the film and almost feels a bit out of place but as it’s so effective and made me laugh out loud several times I shan’t complain.
It’s also quite a sweet film, Turo connects with a particularly dangerous patient at the psychiatric hospital he works in, and the bond between the band members feels genuine and affecting, so when tragedy strikes it really hits home and there are several touching scenes. It makes the ending all the more joyful too as the band head to Norway in a stolen van with a coffin on top of it and surely everyone watching will hope they’ll succeed. And if you don’t you’re a mean, mean person who doesn’t deserve a movie as good as this is.
Ultimately a film about friendship and the need to escape bleak small town life it’s the kind of movie which will make you want to join a band even if you can’t play an instrument or sing a note in tune if your life depended on it (that’s how my partner describes my attempts at singing, anyhow). Even though it doesn’t ignore the ramifications of the band’s actions it has a fantastically feel good ending and will leave you desperate for a sequel, and I truly hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the band.