“The scene where they all dig up the corpse in the middle of the night was actually shot on the longest day of the year – New Year’s Eve. Bad choice of timing that day!
We speak with Juuso Laatio who, along with Jukka Vidgren, co-wrote and directed the 2018 films Heavy travel — the most authentic comedy metal since It’s Spinal Tap. Juuso discusses the challenges of filming night scenes in his native Finland during the summer, when the sun just doesn’t set.
“For variety, it’s good to have night and day scenes, so the night stuff is all done in post,” he explains.
But the grave robbing is actually one of the more minor plot points of the film. Inspired by The Blues Brothers and other vintage American comedies, heavy travel tells the story of a lovable extreme metal band from small town Finland, whose simple quest for a gig catapults them into a sprawling and disastrous odyssey involving local bullies, wild animals, grave robbers, terrorists, Vikings, a crucifixion, a love affair, an international confrontation, buckets of vomit and a constant onslaught of brutal, daredevil metal. Their goal: to get to the Northern Damnation festival in Norway so they can play their banging new song in the parking lot.
Describing the film’s origins, Juuso explains, “Both Jukka and I were raised on Hollywood movies and Hollywood comedies. We wanted to make a feel-good movie about a topic that isn’t usually considered a feel-good topic.
The subject matter, of course, is heavy metal, which tends to be very short in most films, with the metalheads appearing as rogue or dumb-minded sets for the main characters to avoid or overcome (although, of course, there are certain movies that get the metal quite right). The band in heavy travel — who adopt the appropriately dreadful name “Empaled Rektum” — are the film’s meek but hapless protagonists. Representing them realistically and positively was one of Juuso’s main goals.
“There’s something about metal guys,” he says. “Metal people know that they’re usually really nice, kind and funny; or sometimes quiet, nerdy people and, on the contrary, they do the most sonically violent things you can imagine. There is a great contrast between the people and the music they play. Also, metal people are usually the butt of the joke and we meant the side of metal people.
One of heavy travelThe many refreshing qualities of are the clever ways it recognizes the many clichés it draws from – road trip movies, bands looking for their big break, romantic comedies, small towns, and more. – while knocking them over. For example, the film’s main antagonist is the town’s slimy lounge singer and womanizer.
“I don’t know if his jokes translate well into English,” says Juuso, “but the lines I wrote for him are so rude in Finnish that I was embarrassed that my parents saw the film. It was really great to write such an asshole character.
The lead singer’s crush isn’t a tough metal vixen but the girl from the flower shop who loves coffee and sticky buns. It’s very easy to relate to the characters because they seem like real friends in a real band dealing with the kind of stuff that most people – metalheads or otherwise – have been through. And the way the band’s lead singer (played by Johannes Holopainen) ultimately deals with the city’s homophobic bullies is deeply satisfying.
From a metal perspective, the authenticity is off the charts. The actors sport t-shirts like Death, Kreator, Slayer and Cannibal Corpse and their rehearsal room is adorned with carefully selected extreme metal gear. In addition, the group’s first hit, Flood secretions (sic), is a veritable storm of blastbeats and grinding riffs, composed by Mika Lammassaari (Mors Subita). A lifelong metaller himself, Juuso knew that metal references had to come through the scene’s most committed disciples – a caricature in itself – who appear in the composite form of the band’s bassist, Pasi (masterfully played by Max Ovaska) .
“I think if you’re in the metal scene,” Juuso says, “you know someone who’s like that. An absolutist or a purist. I don’t wanna admit it, but have you seen the show Community? There are many Abed in Pasi.
In one of the movie’s recurring jokes, Pasi describes their subgenre as “symphonic, post-apocalyptic, reindeer-crushing, Christ-abusing, extreme, warlike, pagan, Fennoscandic metal”.
There are more than a few similarities between Dave Mustaine and Impaled Rektum guitarist Lotvonen (played by Samuli Jaskio).
Juuso explains, “Almost the guitarist’s entire appearance is the Old School Mustaine look. I tried to incorporate as many Megadeth references into the film as possible. He works at the slaughterhouse and he has the Killing is my business shirt and his guitar is the Mustaine guitar from the early 90s. Also, a joke inside is where the drummer (played by Antti Heikkinen) sneaks into the police station, chords playing backwards- plan are another reference of Megadeth – Shed 18.”
The film requires several viewings. With a coveted 94% Rotten Tomato rating, heavy travel has found a large and enthusiastic global audience that continues to grow exponentially now that it is available on streaming platforms. Oddly enough, although Finland is recognized as the metal capital of the world, heavy travel originally bombed there.
“No one went to see it in Finnish cinemas,” says Juuso. “It was very poorly marketed and to the wrong audience; it was marketed to 15-year-olds but it’s not a movie for them. They don’t know metal references and they don’t listen to metal anyway. After the failed opener, it was pretty much, ‘Well, that’s our career. No one will work with us again.’ »
But the feeling of failure was short-lived. When it premiered on South By Southwest, audiences picked up on it immediately, responding with thunderous laughs and standing ovations.
“We were really surprised, we were asking if people would like a Finnish film with subtitles, but they like this. Since then, we have taken part in many festivals and I have even seen mosh pits at the theatre! We have the craziest fans in Japan. They have a cosplay there and a guy cosplayed as Radar! And they had special screenings where the music came up really loud. there is a madman heavy travel scene there.
Which brings us to the inevitable question – will there be a Heavy travel 2?
“It’s in preparation,” he said. “We wrote a really good script and we were supposed to film it this summer. We’re aiming to film it next year. You never know. The last film lasted six years so hopefully this one doesn’t take so much time ! “.
There is no need to worry – in the immortal words of Pasi: “We are on a mission from Satan.”
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