Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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DVD O.D. : Heavy Metal Parking Lot

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 6, 2007

Props to Jeff Weiss on this one

I can’t help but wonder how actual metalheads find Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Cruelly condescending? Horribly offensive? Poorly representative? Laughably accurate? If few genres speak for themselves as much as metal does, then certainly no genres’ fans speak for themselves as much as metal fans. But at least that other big late-80s metal doc (The Decline of Western Civilization, Pt. II) threw in Megadeth at the end to prove that metal musicians existed who could complete sentences and thoughts with reliable consistency. Heavy Metal Parking Lot does its subject matter no such favors.

To be fair, though, it’s possible they just didn’t find any such fans in time. This is one of many things I didn’t understand about Heavy Metal Parking Lot going into it–it’s one of the least ambitious films I’ve ever seen, its low production values (choppy editing, shaky cinematography, poor title effects) making it look more like an undergrad video project than an actual documentary. And length has a lot to do with that too–for some reason I was under the impression it was a full-length film, when it actually runs a scant 15 minutes, being culled from a mere two hours of shot footage, and no pre-conceived notions of what the film was going to be like.

Frankly, it’s kind of amazing they got as much good stuff as they did. And the stuff is definitely good–the dude who plays air guitar on his girlfriend (while singing the chorus to “I Get Around,” of all songs), the gentleman pictured above, who declares that punk rock “belongs on fuckin’ mars, man” (and with his zebra-pattern shirt and pot-glazed eyes has become the movie’s lasting visual icon) and of course, the dozens of guys assembled to just shout “PRIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEST!!!” The interviewers barely make their presence felt at all (one thing you gotta say for metal fans, they don’t need to much prompting to speak their mind), and unlike Penelope Spheeris in Decline II, they never seem to cast judgement on their subjects–frankly, if it wasn’t for listening to the directors’ commentary on the DVD, I dunno if I could have even said with complete authority that this wasn’t just made by a couple of overzealous Priest fans looking to document just how awesome metal tailgating is.

Speaking of overzealous Priest fans–there’s a definite retrospective hilarity to be found in watching these meatheads gushing about Halford and Co., knowing what we know now. Especially the female fan who proclaims that she would “jump his bones” if she saw Halford right then, and the guy towards the end who talks about the excellence of the band but makes an exception for the singer, saying “Robert Halford…I don’t know about you…”–this shit couldn’t possibly have been scripted so well. I’d love to see a “20 Years Later” edition where the dudes featured in the original movie talk about their reactions to the realization that they were worshipping a band led by a homosexual. Outraged? Unsurprised? In denial?
The best “20 Years Later” the movie got, though, came from a rather unexpected source. I had seen the video for Backstreet Boys’ “Just Want You to Know” before–actually, I think it’s one of the most underrated singles of 2005–but I didn’t quite get that it was a throwbackto HMPL. No idea why they thought this was a good idea–none of their old fans could possibly have understood or appreciated the reference, and no possible converts that would get it would ever give a BSB vid the time of day–but the effort is appreciated nonetheless. Check it out–hell, it’s about a third of the length of the film itself.

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4 Responses to “DVD O.D. : Heavy Metal Parking Lot”

  1. abegrand said

    Decibel actually did do a 20 years later feature on HMPL, which ran last year:

    http://www.decibelmagazine.com/features/aug2006/heavymetalparkinglot.aspx

    In 1986, we thought Manowar was gay, but had absolutely no idea Rob Halford was.

  2. Jeff said

    Reading this makes me very very happy. I’m glad you liked it. I figured you would. What a fucking strange document of the 80s metal world, the things practically an anthropological study by now.

  3. Ria said

    I’ve seen bits and pieces of that in various documentaries. Hell, I may have seen the whole thing without knowing it. The girl who says she’d jump Rob Halford’s bones never fails to make me laugh. Ah, the good old days.

  4. The DVD is available for sale from www. FilmBaby.com and to rent from NetFlix.

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