If you’re in the mood for a Nordic road trip comedy about a heavy metal band, Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren’s Heavy Trip, now playing at the Fantasia 2018 film festival in Montreal, will fill the bill. It won’t be nominated for any Academy Awards, but more than fulfills the genre requirements with a charmingly unpretentious approach to a familiar plot line. The characters are agreeably quirky (except for the few we’re obviously supposed to dislike), the music sounds authentically metal, the scenery is gorgeous, and there are plenty of small delights that make it worth watching. Most importantly, Heavy Trip is a whole lot of fun.
By day, Turo (Johannes Holopainen) is an orderly in a mental hospital in the small Finnish town where he lives. When he’s not cleaning up after residents whose bowel control is less than ideal, he plays in a heavy metal band with drummer Jynkky (Antti Keikkinen), who has a habit of temporarily dying at improbable moments; guitarist Lotvonen (Samuli Jaski), whose day job is working at his family’s reindeer slaughterhouse; and bassist Pasi (Antti Heikkinen), who works in a library and whose memory is a regular treasure trove, or perhaps overly ample dustbin, of obscure metal facts.
Turo and his pals practice in the basement of Lotvonen’s house (his father acerbically remarks that their music makes the reindeer want to kill themselves), and exist as a band only in their own minds. Then one day a Norwegian music promoter shows up at the slaughterhouse wanting to buy some reindeer blood. He notes that they look like a heavy metal band, and Turo replies that they are, in fact, a band specializing in “symphonic, post-apocalyptic, reindeer-grinding, Christ-abusing, extreme war pagan Fennoscandic metal.”
You can guess what happens next. Turo slips the promoter their demo tape, and soon the band is building castles in the sky regarding their great success at the “Northern Damnation Festival” in Norway. Their presumed success impresses the townspeople, including Turo’s love interest Miia (the predictably blond and beautiful Minka Kuustonen). Could this be the big break that allows him to beat out hated rival Jouni (Ville Tiihonen), who is much preferred by Miia’s policeman father?
As they become celebrities of a sort, they begin embroidering on their story, because you can’t hold people’s attention long with the unvarnished truth. It’s a lot better being a band with a foreign gig than a bunch of long-haired freaks, which is how they were previously regarded. In preparation, they get down to basic tasks like choosing a name, which they are convinced must consist of two English words. Among the combinations they consider are Forced Vomit, Fetal Death, Blood Poisoning, Exorcised Vomit, Possessed Vomit (notice a theme emerging?), before settling on Impaled Rektum.
For my taste, Heavy Trip takes a bit long to get to the road trip section of the story, but it provides a fitting conclusion to a sweet little movie that delivers the same message that all such movies deliver: believe in yourself and dare to take a chance. Or, as this film puts it more colorfully put it, “Better to shit yourself than to be forever constipated.” | Sarah Boslaugh
Heavy Trip is playing at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. You can find more information about the festival here.