Films that revolve around subcultures (particularly musical subcultures) tend to be either moderately watchable, or intolerably bad, and the main reason for it is that they end up getting bogged down in a lot of pandering, and often they do so in a way that seems alienating or off-putting to the uninitiated, and downright insulted to the already converted. This film, meanwhile, attempts at a meaningful, thoughtful portrayal of a metalhead, but in the end resorts to stereotypes all the same, and far from being a gripping, heartwarming drama, Metalhead comes across as a banal, pathetic cringe-fest.
The story revolves around a girl named Hera who, when she was eleven years old, had the misfortune of witnessing her older rocker brother Baldur die after falling off of and getting scalped by a tractor. She responded to the tragedy by immediately picking up her brother’s guitar and taking his clothes as her own, and years later, she and her parents still haven’t gotten over the incident. She begins acting out in various ways, like playing loud music wherever she has the given opportunity and generally being rude to everyone. When the priest tries to help her, she interprets it as a romantic relationship and when she realises it isn’t, she burns down a church and goes insane until she comes back, stops being a metalhead for a while until some Norwegian men form a band with her.
That’s pretty much the gist of the plot, and I may well have saved you 97 pointless minutes in divulging it to you. It’s not as if the writers had ill intentions. Grief and alienation make for ideal themes in dramatic works, but it’s just not executed very well, and the main problem is that the film feels like a feature-length tantrum on the part of the main character. The film lurches from being a melodramatic teen angst flick to becoming a preachy “pray the metalhead away” lecture. That to me seems to be the film’s message that being a metalhead is some sort of depressive phase that only teenagers go through, and that you can only be a normal person by getting out of it. I’m not even a metalhead and I think that it’s an utterly deplorable concept.
The main character is perhaps the biggest problem. The writers honestly want me to sympathise with her but I just can’t, and the reason why is because she’s just untenable as a character. She is literally the distorted caricature of a metalhead that parents used to have in their heads back in the 1990’s, complete with all the nasty behaviours that pearl clutchers might have accused metalheads of exhibiting back than, but worse than that, she seems like a character who has completely shackled herself to grief in a manner that isn’t remotely touching because it’s not realistic. It’s not as though the acting is terrible. Her acting is actually quite good, and the rest of the cast didn’t fare too badly either, but again, the whole narrative crumbles quickly.
I should at least commend the film for its visual style. It has a sort of sombre look and feel to it, which belies the shabbiness of the film itself. Of course the film tries to butter you up with all sorts of savoury metal tunes, but it honestly seems like window dressing. Oh, and this a film that ends by somehow managing to make Megadeth sound cringy, by having Hera’s mom do a corny dance to it.
This is one of those films where I have to wonder, how do critics love the film so much? Seriously, it seems like most professional critics do nothing other than give the film a blowjob, possibly because it somehow appeals to their moral sensibilities, but most likely because it’s the kind of banal, meandering melodrama that critics naturally gravitate towards. To me, this film will probably have more appeal with people who know screw all about metal, and I don’t think the sycophantic “critics” that worshipped this film even listened to a single metal song or album before that. I don’t know what planet they were on, or even if they were watching the same movie, but the reality is the Metalhead was a hollow mockery of the subculture that it is purported to cater to.
- Score: 59%
- Grade: D