Reviewed: January, 2021
2020 was the year I mostly gave up. I’ve tried my whole life to support bands and independent film-makers but they make it harder and harder by not making the product available for sale. It is extremely annoying that this documentary is not available on DVD in North America. I’ve waited six years to see this and I finally gave up and watched it on a streaming service. They lost a sale and they have no one to blame but themselves. It is hard for a film to get attention if virtually no one can see it. Evidence? This film has been out for six years and (as of time of writing, late Dec, 2020) this film has no reviews on IMDB.
MONSTERMAN originally came out in 2014 in Finland, home of horror-shock-rock Heavy Metal monsters, Lordi. Lordi has been going for a couple of decades now and had some moderate success around the world, their home nation is undoubtedly their stronghold.
This brief (85 minute) doc is very well shot and produced and miles above the many ‘talking head’ docs that populate the landscape. I really like how this film was structured. It does not start at the beginning at the story, which I really liked. The band was founded in and had even early roots as far back as the early 80’s when founder Tomi Petteri Putaansuu (aka Mr. Lordi) started fantasizing about making the ultimate monster band. This is a ‘riches to rags’ story, unlike so many others that do a feel-good ‘rags to riches’ (and back again) formula. The film, after a very brief introductory clip giving just a teasing hint of the back-story, starts just after the band won the Eurovision contest in 2006. They were on the top of he world after winning the world’s biggest song contest and they were media darlings. Fast forward just a year or so and once the hype from fickle, fair-weather fans has worn off the band is in dire straights.
The band was trapped. They were not supported by non-Metal fans, who once they tired of the novelty drifted away, and they often were not supported by the die-hard Metal fans who found them perhaps a tad goofy, or foolish or gimmicky, or whatever negative comment you may want to add. That left them in limbo with a pretty small fanbase.
The story picks up with Putaansuu, (whose face is never revealed on camera) trying to rebuild his band. Tragedy strikes time and again. The new drummer, Tommi Kristian Lillman (aka Otus) suddenly dies. The record company executive who had championed the band gets fired. The long-standing keyboardist, Leena Maria Peisa (aka Awa) quits and album sales are in the tank.
There is a very revealing scene where Putaansuu meets with the record company exec in the office and if you pause the film you can see a Powerpoint presentation/chart on a screen. You can actually see the albums sales history and Lordi dropped from about 90,000 copies of THE AROCKALYPSE down to 4000 copies of BABEZ FOR BREAKFAST! You seldom see ‘real’ numbers revealed that, intentional or not. Things look grim. No wonder the label wanted to drop the band after a massive 96% decline in sales in only four years and two album cycles. The touring front is not much better, the band is even filmed playing a gig at a small convention of Russian travel agents, most of which looked annoyed or scared of the band. The band has one last shot at salvaging a decade of hard work and the film follows that journey.
Putaansuu was reportedly not pleased with the final product and half-heartedly denounced the film, saying it portrayed him in a negative light. I suppose you could interpret the film in that fashion, as a neutral observer I didn’t feel it was a smear job or attack campaign. However, no one likes to see themselves at their lowest. The film did portray him to be a bit of a loner-hermit, who lives in a small shack fawned over by his mother, but in reality he is happily married and a successful artist, film-maker, graphic designer and business man. And seven foot tall, monster rock star.
MONSTERMAN shows the dedication and drive of Putannsuu to keep his dream alive and in that case it succeeds admirably. I felt is was a great glimpse into the life of a ‘at times’ struggling artist and the highs and lows of the Heavy Metal game. Perhaps one day there will be a full documentary, properly endorsed and distributed that tells the full story of this complicated and exciting band.