Directed by Jeff Krulik and John HeynFilm Baby
On May 31, 1986, amateur filmmakers John Heyn and Jeff Krulik pulled into an arena parking lot outside of Washington D.C., unpacked their equipment, and proceeded to shoot footage and conduct interviews with the scores of fans who had gathered to prepare for that evening's Judas Priest/Dokken concert. Of the over two hours of drunken dialog, drug-induced mayhem and testosterone-fueled antics that were captured on tape came a 16 minute independent film-short aptly titled Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
Originally intended for public access broadcast, the picture gained notoriety as it appeared in small independent film festivals and began to make the rounds of the video bootleg underground. By the mid '90s, HMPL had attracted the attention of such notables as Dave Grohl and Sofia Coppolla, who reportedly tracked the producers down to procure a copy for herself. Taking advantage of its rising cult status, Heyn and Krulik had the film released on video in 2001, complete with additional footage, and took it on a North American tour. Now, in the midst of pop culture's nostalgia for everything that is '80s, comes the 20th anniversary DVD edition.
If you have never seen HMPL you are in store for an inordinate amount of late '70s-model Camaros, an impressive collection of vintage metal T-shirts, camera frames full of feathered and frizzled hair, priceless insights about Rob Halford, an overflow of domestic beer and dudes — lots of lean shirtless dudes partying to such an extreme that it is unlikely they remember anything from that evening's show. In an effort to expand the original edition, the DVD contains a variety of extras, including the sequels Monster Truck Parking Lot, Neil Diamond Parking Lot and Harry Potter Sidewalk. The disc's bonus material also features original scrapped footage, interviews with the filmmakers, visits with various parking lot alumni and a trip into a heavy metal basement.
I've always had reservations about HMPL and thought that checking out this DVD version might help in alleviating some of my concerns. Sadly enough, however, I was wrong. The glaring weakness of the film is the lack of genuine interest or respect Heyn and Krulik show for their subject matter. You see, I was an '80s headbanger, and to this day I wear my metal badge with pride. When I watch this video I do not feel as though I'm laughing with the film. I feel like I'm being laughed at. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a sucker for a good mockumentary, but this is no Spinal Tap. It's simply two guys riding out their 15 minutes of fame at metal's expense.
Need evidence? Look no further than the segment titled "Philly Fiasco," in which HMPL is played before a crowd of rambunctious metalheads. The film is quickly booed off the stage. Heyn and Krulik are shown in the dressing room lamenting their disgrace, chalking the incident up to the crowd wanting to see the Black Sabbath cover band playing that night. Right. I think the better explanation is that the crowd recognized the elitist motivations behindHMPL's creation and could not identify with its superficial portrayal of metal culture. They simply responded accordingly.
I'm sure that the guys behind this film will swear to the best of intentions. And they probably should if they want to continue padding their 401(k) plans with royalty checks. Me? I'll be returning this disc for either store credit or a copy of Spinal Tap,something I can better relate to.