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Saturday Night at the Movies

By Andrew Stevens.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) is rightly enjoyed as a found footage gem and secondary source backdrop for a much-analysed and oft-revived era. I barely need to hype it up here, so established is its cult reputation. This was the Reaganite actuality of heavy metal, the solidly blue collar weekend hedonism of prosaic Middle America, a million miles from the bleached coiffured sex acts and Jack Daniels marathons of the Sunset Strip; a place where hatchet-faced and screechy-voiced women proclaimed their desire to “jump the bones” of Judas Priest’s still firmly-closeted (outside the industry, at least) Rob Halford.

In fact, the MTV coverage of Halford’s decision to come out in 1998 possibly ranks as a companion piece to HMPL, Kurt Loder’s linked commentary between interviewing dejected Priest fans outside suburban record stores, destroyed to know that their past hero worship could now potentially be construed as at odds with their homophobic certainty, a direct challenge to their internal conception of self.

But HMPL‘s true value is not only the fact that it allowed the likes of FUBAR (2002) to follow, but the displacement between the audience’s enjoyment of innocent knowing humour and the endearing emotional attachment and passion of the fans it depicts, a quality we cannot readily identify two decades on. Mark Wahlberg had nothing on these in Rock Star (2001, though Wahlberg’s bandmate in the film, Jeff Pilson, actually played at the HMPL gig as part of opening act Dokken.)

First posted: Saturday, September 19th, 2009.

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