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Home | Film Reviews | Cult Films | Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

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A glowing green orb – which embodies ultimate evil – terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.


It really goes without saying how awesome this film is. I had the privilege of viewing this movie in theatres in 1981 when it debuted and now have the same privilege of reviewing it in its 4K presentation state. Now for those from that era, this film has never been in a state where it could handle the 4K resolution of today, so it’s great to see it re-mastered and in high definition where we can be viewed in all its glory per big screen TV. Per obvious methodology, the original had to have some degree of noising added to it for its picture to handle the up-rezzing (as the original animation was never rendered highres) none the less, it is a pleasure to now enjoy it on bigger screens.

Heavy metal was the first (and really only) true feature that was created from the heavy metal magazine franchise. It was animation in its most cutting edge form with a rather edgy, racy storyline. It featured the styles of some of the magazine’s best artists stories. Heavy Metal did have a later release under the same brand “Heavy Meal 2000”, but was far cry from the style and format that its original did. Heavy Metal 1981 release was a one and only 1-off that has remained a iconic piece of film making establishing a loyal cult following for many years after.

The animation styles (as discussed in the behind the scenes) were studied and duplicated from the magazine, so that the magazines artist’s shorts were presented in the same fashion as those readers were accustomed to. “Heavy Metal” the movie, was also considered a break thru for its animation styles which didn’t have the luxury of computer animation techniques quite yet. Because of this, the techniques found in the film were often invented on the spot using a variety of approaches to give the film depth and originality and utilizing the aspects of rotoscoping. The film was created primarily under a Canadian cast using the animation studios from that region.

Getting to the story at hand, Heavy metal focused on the story of an evil orb called the Loc-nar (“the sum of all evils”). The Loc-nar was a form of evil entity passed over the ages encased in an green orb. It’s purpose was to corrupt those who sought it out and those who possessed it. Per the intro, it is brought to earth by an astronaut who’s spaceship is that of an old car. When it melts him upon open, it focuses on telling its story over the ages to a young girl (the astronaut daughter) who is revealed to be a future threat to its existence.

This sets the tone for several short films to follow that range in timeline, animation style, and sometimes even dimension. The stories are modern fantasy tales that focus on the genres of science fiction and horror. Each story is properly encased with a mix of original rock tracks that segue’s one into the next.

Speaking of, One can’t talk about this film without mentioning its equally awesome soundtrack featuring some of the best bands and acts of that era. More importantly a collective of extremely appropriate releases that fit the narrative of the story (“Open Arms”, “The Mob Rules”, “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” and many others) with bands such as Cheap Trick, Journey, Sammy Hagar, Riggs, Black Sabbath, to name a few proving a solid experience.

Among the films more noted stories include, “Den”, “Harry Canyon”, and “Captain Sternn”. Heavy metal is animation entertainment at its best. The film ultimately ends on its Taarna” short which brigs things full circle.

It’s a blast of eye candy, color, and narration combined with leading actor voice overs. While a 2nd film, its sequel “Heavy Metal 2000”, was created later, it failed to capture the original intent often using newer computer animation styles to help it along. In addition, Heavy metal would also use racy segments employing animated nudity at times to match its printed magazine style that it was inspired from. To add to its intensity many of the shorts would also employ some form of violence among its characters rounding off this film with a solid feeling of modern rock and roll adult level entertainment.

The critics didn’t favor the film at the time, but like many of this kind (especially these animated films of that era) went on to a huge and lasting cult status for years to come. Heavy Metal also inspired soon to come animations such as “Rock & Rule” that took similar approach.

In short, Heavy Metal is a cult film worth watch and experiencing. This latest release comes out in 4K resolution UHD also packaging “Heavy Metal 2000” with it to round off this great release!

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