Heavy Metal Parking Lot
15th Anniversary Tour
review by Elias Savada, 15 June 2001

I've known D.C.-area filmmaker Jeff Krulik for what seems like decades. We both share an affectionate obsession for horror director Tod Browning (a publicity still from Freaks is featured on Jeff's website, www.planetkrulik.com) and Johnny Eck, the Baltimore native "half-boy," whose body ended just below his ribcage. And we were both bar mitzvah-ed, which has nothing to do with today's feature. Just file it away for later disuse.

Big screen success has always been just around the corner for Jeff and fellow guerrilla filmmaker John Heyn (by day, a producer of training videos for the Department of Veterans Affairs). Their no-budget underground film and video antics have been below Hollywood's radar screens for years, but with the above ground resurrection of their epic 16-minute seminal documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, encased in a multi-title, hour-and-a-half package (graced with some dynamite 2001 animation titles by Brad Dismukes), perhaps fortune and fame will follow. Actually they are both getting a well deserved fifteen minutes in the July issue of GQ, so perhaps some studio exec has an eye on the middle-aged pair by now, depending on where's he's sitting on the throne.

For the uninitiated, Heavy Metal Parking Lot was an unrehearsed, ungizmoed adventure on the periphery of the Capital Centre, an arena built by local sports legend Abe Pollin as a haven for sporting events and music concerts. As dusk settles one late May 1986 afternoon prior to a Judas Priest concert, they tool the parking lot circling the building, their camera shooting from the open window of a 1978 Bonneville. It tracks past legions of drunken, drugged-out, head-banging fans, meandering in search of kindred and alcoholic spirits, or at least a cold beer. As an excursion into the land of candid camera, without the candid, the filmmakers capture a wild group of whacked out fans, generally under-educated and often bare-chested (the men, of course), with Prince George County's cops keeping a wary eye from their saddles nearby. One crazed dude after another, blasted on acid or related drug of choice, put on their party faces and giddily dumb down for the camera, much like the Jaywalking segment on the Tonight Show. There are portions of Go (1999) that contain the same stereotypes in a similar setting, but without the brave, unpolished aura that Jeff and John have captured.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the program also includes numerous sequels (authorized and otherwise) and absurdist spawn that honor the public citizen anxious to speak to the camera. From their own corral, Krulik and Heyn offer Neil Diamond Parking Lot (1996), the official sequel with an obviously different cast. Covering the same concrete skirting the re-christened USAir Arena, the filmmakers take on a decided older Diet Coke crowd, a geriatric brood of card carrying (AARP) genteel folk, grannies, and gramps. The brash trailer trash youth, the bad teeth, and the late '70s Camaros are replaced with sedate, well-groomed Republican sentimentalities, bulging midriffs, and rented limos. Yet it is just as amusing as its predecessor in capturing the outrageously normal lifestyles of America's not-so-rich and never-famous. John Heyn co-produced (with Seth Morris), the short "unfinished and unreleased" Monster Truck Parking Lot, showcasing another divergent crowd. There's also the long-rumored outtakes Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The Lost Footage, a collection of video clips painstakingly recovered from John Heyn's waterlogged basement. The most recent addition is Harry Potter Parking Lot (2000) wherein Krulik follows the mania surrounding the release of one of the acclaimed JK Rowling books at a suburban book store.

The rest of the feature is made up of several television stories about the filmmakers and a handful of tributes inspired by HMPL (but never as wonderful). Robbie Socks' Heavy Metal Sidewalk is a narrow glance of aging rockers peppering the front of the Warfield in San Francisco, as they enter for a February 28, 1998 Judas Priest show. There is less stupidity, less beer, less drugs, less originality. From late 1998 there is Clare Carey's Girl Power Parking Lot, which actually is filming in the streets outside Mann's Chinese at the premiere of Spice World, with hundreds of semi-extremist Spice Girls fans screaming behind barricades as the bosomy quintet of their affections arrives for a personal appearance. For all the glitter and glamour surrounding the event, there's a sadly poignant moment when an unfortunate soul, suffering from a dreadful case of acne and with heavy metal braces that would set off alarms at any airport, offers the filmmaker a glimpse at a personal scrapbook honoring the music phenomenon. There's the grainy, sweaty homage Raver Bathroom by Toronto indie filmmakers Doug DiPasquale and Prem Sooriyakumar. Never being a rave fan (well, I wasn't into heavy metal either, now that I think about it), I couldn't say I was enthralled by this urinal verité confessional where the dialogue is barely audible (there are a inconsistent spattering of subtitles) and a nearly unanimous use of drugs. I'm too old to understand why half the crowd was sucking on baby pacifiers. Finally, there's a short music video (Flavor of the Week) for the band American Hi-Fi is another rip-off produced by A Band Apart, Quentin Tarantino's production company. Perhaps Jeff and John should check with their lawyers about getting a nice royalty check for the last item. Hey boys, exploit this for everything you can!

Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge, that haven of independent thinking in a metropolitan area overrun with mega-multiplexes, is graciously allowing the local lads its first commercial week-long exposure of this compilation effort, a great treat for Washingtonians—dulled to death on The Fast and the Furious, Tomb Raider, and Swordfish—following a presentation at the Experience Music Project in Seattle last February and a few festival dates. The original short, long a bootleg and Nirvana favorite, premiered at DC Space back in 1986, with occasional unreelings around town (particularly at The American Film Institute theater at the Kennedy Center). Although the filmmakers said the tape was withdrawn back in 1990, it has had an amazing shelf life, with Jeff and John ultimately realizing that their ode to heavy metal maniacs should be viewed by a wider audience. The film's website (www.heavymetalparkinglot.net) lists the upcoming dates (including L.A. at the end of July), so surf over and check out the schedule.

In a Q+A sessions following the inaugural D.C. screening, the audience was curious what lay ahead for the now digital videomakers. Boy Band Parking Lot was screaming from a back row seat. "We'll do it…if someone wants to pay us," Jeff honestly replied. The ninety-minute program gelled when the directors of the rave and Spice Girls videos sent Jeff and John their tapes. They had no idea how HMPL has inspired so many, or bastardized a few. One fan paralleled the American Hi-Fi "remake" to Gus Van Sant's unsuccessful attempt to redo Alfred Hitchcocks's Psycho.

For now Jeff Krulik and John Heyn are reveling in the Visions bar, downing a few brews and chatting with the crowd. Next up? Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The Movie. Honest. They're developing a script with screenwriter friend Gary Winter (a sample is at the website). There's probably going to be a reunion, too. They've identified at least ten subjects from the 1986 film, including Zebra Boy. One survivor is Jay Hughen, a music executive with Atomic Pop.

How about a theme park and the obvious self-referential followup: Heavy Metal Parking Lot Parking Lot. Until then, Metal rawks!

Directed by:
Jeff Krulik 
John Heyn

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








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