In the late ’80s, a bunch of Norwegian teenagers started a bunch of bands and made a bunch of noise. Yadda, yadda, yadda, it’s a story we’ve all heard a million times. Except these teenagers didn’t just make extreme music, they also committed murder, arson and suicide, and became the most notorious musicians of their age in the process.
Director Jonas Åkerlund should know a thing or two about the Norwegian black metal scene – he was, after all, the first drummer in Bathory, a band that had a massive influence on the music that erupted out of those grim northern forests. So who better to tell the story of the characters at the heart of the scene: Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth (Rory Culkin) of Mayhem and the man who murdered him, Varg ‘Count Grishnackh’ Vikernes (Emory Cohen) of Burzum?
This dramatisation of the scene and its fallout revolves around partying, immature jokes, sex, record shops, brutally extreme heavy metal and a lot of church burnings. Culkin does a good job as Euronymous, though the rest of the cast come across like they’re finding the whole thing a bit silly.
When the film hits its stride, with copious beer and endless headbanging, it makes you wish you’d been there. But Åkerlund doesn’t really manage to balance the idiocy of teenhood with either the seriousness of murder and arson or the heartbreaking reality of mental illness. The whole thing is one long music-video party with some stabbing and fire thrown in. In the process, Åkerlund has made a movie that black metal fans will hate and everyone else will find a little unapproachable. So, no, it’s not very good, but it is a lot of fun.