Heavy Metal Parking Lot
Transplated from Maryland's Capitol Center to the 18th Annual Olympia Film Festival
review by KJ Doughton, 9 November 2001

To many people who saw Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the cult documentary’s landscape was more alien and frightening than that of the Red Planet.  To others, especially those who grew up in the eighties and swore their allegiance to hard rock music, the imagery was nostalgic and tear inducing.  The year was 1986, and the Largo, Maryland Capitol Center had attracted thousands of headbanging teenagers to worship featured acts Judas Priest and Dokken. 

Like a Sunday morning church congregation, the faithful geared up early for the concert, swaggering impatiently next to their muscle cars after navigating around orange traffic cones to the venue’s massive parking lot.  Drunken stoners with frosted hair, headbands, and tank tops faced off against horse-bound patrol cops with tan uniforms and redneck moustaches. The tinny sound of such Judas Priest anthems as “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and “Breaking the Law” strained from car stereos, while ticket-buyers stood in line and gave the “devil’s hand sign” to passers-by. 

Meanwhile, all of these memorable sights and sounds were being immortalized by filmmaker Jeff Krulik, a bespectacled, balding fortysomething who fought his way through the rabid masses like a war photographer storming the beaches of Normandy at D-Day.  When Krulik asked a concert-bound girl where she was from, the mascara-dipped wench replied, “I came here from the West Coast. I’m on acid now.”

Recently resurrected during a fifteenth-anniversary showing at The Eighteenth Annual Olympia Film Festival last month, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is a true underground classic. Filmed by Krulik on a shoestring budget with fellow lensman John Heyn, it’s a flavorful slice of anthropological pie that perfectly sums up the vibe of the mid-eighties music scene. At a time before the emergence of Nirvana, when more flamboyant bands like Judas Priest and their fraternal partners in metal like Ratt, Motley Crue, Dio, and Scorpions reigned supreme, such concert scenes were a bridge between the disco era and the grunge renaissance.  Arena rock ruled, and it was still hip to dress up and sing about dungeons and dragons.

With this in mind, there was no better band to host the party than Judas Priest.  Blonde guitarist KK Downing stood opposite brunette counterpart Glenn Tipton, while both of them pelted riffs at listeners from stage left and stage right. Bass and drums vibrated coliseums. The band’s charismatic blonde singer, Rob Halford, wailed in ear-piercing falsetto and drove onstage perched atop a motorcycle.  A kind of heavy-metal Liberace, he donned leather and studs and alternated between party anthems (sample lyric: “Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn, lovin’ ‘til the morning – then I’m gone!”) and more apocalyptic numbers about war and death.  It was the ultimate irony when this embodiment of redneck, macho energy came out of the closet in 1992 to announce that he way gay. 

Theatrical to the extreme, Judas Priest’s onstage antics were still upstaged by the goofy rock god worship demonstrated by their pre-show fans, which Krulik and Heyn stalked using ¾ inch video and tube cameras. It’s not until the end of Heavy Metal Parking Lot that we actually see footage of the band: the main focus of this grainy, slapdash, fifteen-minute movie is Judas Priest’s maniacal following waiting in line out front. When Krulik asks a black-garbed redhead with bad skin what she would do upon meeting Halford, she screams, “I’d jump his bones!”  Little did she know.

Later, the camera-wielder comes across a vanload of kids sporting an open drink cooler. “Have a Busch or a Budweiser,” offers a friendly local yokel wearing a military green shirt that says, Kill ‘em All – Let God Sort ‘em Out. Nearby, another mob of hyped-up teens hold a Judas Priest banner made of bedsheets, while chanting, “Priest! Priest! Priest!”  Hanging out by the band’s tour bus is a runty male with a black and white striped shirt. “Heavy metal rules,” claims the outspoken critic, affectionately dubbed “Zebra Boy” by Krulik. “All that punk sh*t sucks and Madonna can go to hell!” All the while, he’s attempting to chug beer from an unopened bottle. Who says that today’s youth aren’t respectable?

Krulik finds tenderness and good intentions lurking amidst the hedonistic partying.  After a fan was killed in a recent auto accident, his mother wrote to the band’s management and scored concert tickets for the victim’s friends, who stand outside with a banner dedicated to their deceased pal. “Timmy Loves Judas Priest,” reads the cloth sign.  Finally, Heavy Metal Parking lot concludes with some footage of the band cranking out “Headin’ Out to the Highway.”  After the music fades, it’s back to blue collar jobs and trailer courts for the movie’s well-satiated rockers.

However, it’s here that the true legend of Heavy Metal Parking Lot begins. Since Krulik and Heyn edited the film and dubbed off copies to friends while living in Washington D.C. and working in public television, their creation has become the Frankenstein’s Monster of cult short films.  “In 1994,” he explains, “John got a call from Sophia Coppola, who had rented a copy in L.A. at a video store. The tapes were actually being sold and circulated – unofficially – by such music and video outlets across the country. By that time, we had pretty much shelved the film, thinking of it as just an amusing little novelty. Then other celebrities, like Belinda Carlyle and Nirvana, started inquiring about it as well. We realized that the movie had really struck a nerve with people.”  Allegedly, there are more bootlegged copies of Heavy Metal Parking Lot floating around than the infamous Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee sex tapes.  

More recently, the Def America band American Hi-Fi lifted imagery from Krulik’s film and incorporated it into their video, “Flavor of the Week.”  The mannerisms and fashion choices of key characters are pilfered in this tale of a slutty rocker chick being jilted by her big-hair boyfriend, amidst souped-up Chevys and drunken rockers roaming across an asphalt jungle identical to that featured in Heavy Metal Parking Lot. ‘They never approached us or asked permission,” says Krulik.

Meanwhile, the director revisited the Capital Center parking lot ten years after their first bout of trailing unsuspecting music fans. This time, however, the vibe was significantly different – Neil Diamond was in town.  Instead of Camaros, the lot was jammed with SUV’s.  A tuxedo-clad man in a wheelchair is spotted sipping Diet Coke from a red cooler.  A gaggle of women congregate next to the auditorium with roses destined for Mr. Diamond’s stage. When asked why their husbands and boyfriends aren’t with them, the fiftysomething group responds in unison, “Because we don’t have any!” Still, the lusty air of sexual energy remains much like it did when metalheads congregated here a decade ago. When a middle-aged blonde talks of wanting to get friendly with her crooning idol, an onlooker cackles, “Go for it, girl!”  Way past adolescence, the hormones are still active in Maryland.

Other amateur filmmakers have gotten into the act and filmed similar parking lot homages. Raver Bathroom. Harry Potter Sidewalk. Girl Power Parking Lot. The list goes on.

Although the director maintains a professional, informative web site dedicated to his cult classics (www.planetkrulik.com), complete with information of how to buy merchandise and other mail-order items, he confesses that Heavy Metal Parking Lot has never been very profitable.  To remedy this, Krulik is currently negotiating the production of a feature film. “We’ve got a concept that will include a reunion of the original people featured in the film,” he explains. “We have positive ID’s on twelve of them, from people who sent their yearbooks, or went to school with them.  The idea for the movie is a weird combination of Schindler’s List meets Rock ‘n Roll High School.  Or in the spirit of Wayne’s World. Anything is possible.” 

Sounds metal.  Beaming off of Planet Krulik with a flash of the devil’s hand sign and a raised cigarette lighter flickering to the heavens.

Directed by:
Jeff Krulik 
John Heyn

NR - Not Rated
This film has not
yet been rated.







www.nitrateonline.com  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.