Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Ultimate 80s Rock Documentary 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' Will Never Die

We are now exactly as far removed in time from the 1986 release of Heavy Metal Parking Lot as its sleeveless truants and zebra-print daytrippers were from Elvis Presley's gyrations on The Milton Berle Show. In other words, the world's greatest 16-minute documentary about Judas Priest fandom currently stands at the precise midpoint—almost to the day—of the filmed history of rock 'n' roll.
HMPL is one of the VHS era's unassailable cult classics, although it's hard to know what that term means since the creation of YouTube and the evergreen availability of nearly everything. The thrill of discovering a copy in a friend's tape collection or at a rare DC-area screening is gone. That the film continues to reward viewers in its freely available .MP4 incarnation is a testament to its weird goodness, its good weirdness, and the unscripted enthusiasm of its stars: a Chaucerian succession of hilarious caterwauling youths. It's hard to imagine a less cynical group of people. The underage beer-guzzling is as quaint today as the lines of pristine Mustangs and Firebirds or the public displays of devotion to Judas Priest, a devotion that remained unshaken and sincere even after the definitive anti-hagiography that was 1984's This Is Spinal Tap.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot from Jeff Krulik on Vimeo.

 Two novice filmmakers named John Heyn and Jeff Krulik shot HMPL in the hours before a Priest show at the since-demolished Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, not far from the Baltimore suburb where I grew up. My childhood was ordinary—not in the least metal—although at 12 or 13, I had a best friend who loved any form of self-serious rock music. One summer, after renting Detroit Rock City on videotape, Mike convinced his father to drive us all the way to Camden, New Jersey, to see KISS play with Ted Nugent. Probably the quality of experience we were hoping for was something akin to HMPL's metal-head hajj, since we actually brought Mike's family camcorder along with us. It was a major moment of teenage disillusionment to discover an audience of balding divorcés and middle managers in peasant blouses. Years later, after seeing HMPL, I realized that it didn't matter anyway. Our idea had been done a generation earlier.

Once you join the church of HMPL, you start to see its influence everywhere: Beavis and Butthead, found-footage festivals, this website. The film's concision, disinterest, and speed prefigure the form of the viral video. You could describe it to your niece or nephew as a long collection of Vines.

Mauk, Ben. "The Ultimate 80s Rock Documentary 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' Will Never Die | VICE | Sweden." VICE. May 17, 2016. Accessed June 16, 2016.