Heavy Metal Parking Lot
THE MOVIE Now that it's taken on such (sub)cultural baggage, what strikes you about Heavy Metal Parking Lot is how simple (or slight) it actually is. Just over 16 minutes long and shot in first-person POV on borrowed video equipment, John Heyn and Jeff Krulik's no-fi, no-budget documentary/cinéma vérité exposé almost feels odd on DVD rather than an nth-generation VHS bootleg passed around as a minor private pleasure. (This 20th anniversary edition actually includes a "Dub-O-Vision" option, which lets you watch a grainy, copied-10-times version.) Heyn and Krulik simply rolled tape and captured something you can still see today: shirtless metal fans pounding tall boys while tailgating. And that's about it. Like many teenagers, these Judas Priest--and a few Dokken--fans aren't particular articulate, but their enthusiasm shouts and grins louder than maybe even eggheads Heyn and Krulik could have realized when they probably giggingly came up with the idea over beers one bored day.
If HMPL is some kinda tiny masterpiece, it's a masterpiece of utter ambiguity. The filmmakers wisely refrain from editorializing too much, and often these kids just grab the mic and go off--punk sucks, metal rules, we're so fucked up, kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out. This is why audiences can read just about whatever they want into the movie. In the directors' commentary Heyn and Krulik sound like they have a sincere, if bemused, appreciation for these kids based on their goofy excesses, but the lingering (and cheapest) reading of HMPL is that it's some kind of joke at these kids' expense, or a way to laugh from a comfy remove at the garish clothes and idiotic music people listened to in the 1980s. Maybe it is; "unintentionally hilarious" screams the pull quote from Entertainment Weekly on the cover. But just as many people, especially metal fans, have reclaimed the movie as tribute that the waters are muddied now. Perhaps the truest reading comes from the Priest's Rob Halford himself, buried in the extras, when he says that these kids are the only reason the band can do what they do. There are worse reasons to get out of bed in the morning.
THE DISC As expected from a "feature" that barely lasts a quarter of an hour, the Heavy Metal Parking Lot DVD is nearly all extras, including the expected commentary and all sorts of stuff that you probably never knew existed and that only the truly crazed will sit through in its entirety. There are the three sequels--Monster Truck Parking Lot, Neil Diamond Parking Lot, and Harry Potter Parking Lot--all of which pale in comparison to the original, and no surprise there really. Plus the filmmakers almost give the contempt game away in Monster Truck Parking Lot when they ask a "redneck" family if they've ever seen Deliverance. There are outtakes, interviews with a handful of a HMPL alumni, various bits of media coverage--including a very Gen X moment with Tabitha Soren on MTV News talking about cable access--a trailer, a TV spot, a clip from The Jenny Jones Show with two tubby goths trying to rip off the HMPL steez, a homage video from terrible emo band American Hi-Fi, and much, much more. If Heyn and Krulik have any other scraps of video in their basements waiting to be collected on a 25th anniversary edition, it'll be a big surprise.