Directed by Nathan Mowery (Fozzy Across America) and produced by Chris Jericho (MacGruber, “But I’m Chris Jericho,” “WWE Smackdown!”) I’m Too Old For This Sh*t: A Heavy Metal Fairytale (2021), follows the five members of Siren – Ed Aborn [drums], Doug Lee [vocals], Gregg Culbertson [bass], Todd Grubbs [guitar] and Hal Dunn [guitar] – as they rekindle friendships and put aside any animosity following the band’s breakup 35 years ago to embrace their last chance at making their rock ‘n’ roll dreams come true. In the early 1980s, the Brandon, Florida quintet were poised to take over the world of heavy metal, but a string of bad luck, shady business deals and inner politics led to the band’s demise. Unbeknownst to them, Siren was amassing a sizable fanbase overseas over the ensuing decades and thanks to the powers of social media, an obsessed fan located and contacted Aborn, ultimately leading to an offer from the organizers of the Keep It True Festival, one of Germany’s biggest annual heavy metal gatherings, for a 2018 mainstage reunion performance.
As someone who know little to nothing about underground heavy metal bands from the 80s, and had not even heard of the band Siren before, this documentary did a great job of both showing and explaining what heavy metal is and what the culture is like, both as it was 35 years ago and the state of heavy metal today. For someone more familiar with underground heavy metal bands like Siren, this doc truly feels like a love letter to heavy metal and to the band. It really feels like the filmmakers have a deep love for this band and for heavy metal culture in general.
The documentarians, specifically the direction from Nathan Mowery as well as editing from Mowery, Dylan Frymyer, and Robert Peak, all did a great job of crafting a narrative. I personally think that the best documentaries can not just, well, document events, but craft a narrative around said events. This is something that I believe this documentary does very well. We get to learn what Siren was and how the band eventually broke apart. We also get to see the former band members reunite and the time leading up to their performance at the Keep It True Festival. So there’s a very clear narrative, clear stakes (as the band members don’t want to let their fans down) and a clear thing the movie is building towards.
I think that the narrative side of the film unfortunately faltered at the beginning. I think a little bit more time could’ve been given to explaining and/or showing what happened to the band and why Ed Aborn eventually left Siren and how a European fan (credited as Nick Headbanger) eventually got them back together in their 50s to perform at the Keep it True Festival. I also would have liked to see how the band members, specifically the other ones that go to the festival, and their story and how/why they eventually left Siren. They mostly focus on Ed Aborn and Doug Lee and their experience with Siren, which is totally fine as it provides more emotional catharsis when they meet up, but I just wish that even throughout the documentary they dedicated some time to the other band members and their experience in Siren. As I mentioned before, the beginning did a great job of setting up Siren and the initial tension, I just think they went through it a little bit too fast. I think the film could’ve benefited from taking a bit more time to explain the breakup as well as how they eventually got back together for the Festival. It just went by too fast.
Some of the best scenes were just seeing the band members hanging out around Germany, rehearsing, or the moments before the show. There were especially some great scenes where Gregg Culbertson, Ed, or any of the members would meet a fan or let it really sink in that, in a way, their 20 year old dreams are finally coming true. This is where the film truly earns it’s title as a “heavy metal fairy tale.” One of the most memorable and emotional scenes is seeing Gregg walk alone in a grass field, and reflect on the fact that this is what he dreamed of doing 35 year ago, and now it’s finally come true. All of the guys are so genuine in their love for their music and for their fans and don’t want to disappoint them.
There was a lot of great cinematography. A bit too many shots of the band members just standing there or walking around which felt a bit like filler, except for the time when there’d be voiceover over said moments. Still, those shots were nice and even the ones the crew documented in real time were very crisp and clear. I’m not sure if this was just the type of camera they used or the colored grating, but the color and the image was extremely washed out. If that was a choice, I wish they’d choose to brighten up the frame and colors. There were some great comedic bits, as well. Partly due to the chemistry and comments from the band members, but also due to the editing. There were a multitude of times when this intense heavy rock music would play, and then it would cut to something mundane. There was only one editing choice that really took me out of the story, and then when this modern rap and bob music started to play over the guys waiting at the airport. It was so bizarre and out of place. But other than that the editing was really coherent and spot on.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
An inspiring story of five friends reuniting after several decades to live out their dream and connect with those who were inspired by them and by Siren. The biggest issue with this film was it’s pacing, but even then the film presented a very clear narrative in a dynamic and – for the most part – interesting way. Great camera work, great direction, and always fun and compelling documentary subjects, I’m Too Old For This Sh*t (2021) is a true loveletter to Siren and to underground heavy metal in general that unfortunately suffers from meandering scenes, washed out images, and a rushed beginning. Still, it goes to show that, no matter how old you are, you’re never too old to live out your dreams.