Movies / Home Theatre

Heavy Metal Parking Lot

By Al Kratina
October 30, 2007 - 07:30

Heavy Metal Parking Lot

1986, USA

Directors: John Heyn, Jeff Krulik

Genre: Documentary

Rating: Unrated

DVD Distributor: Factory 515



Mathematically speaking, this might be the greatest DVD of all time. Though Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the legendary 1986 underground documentary that launched a thousand bootlegs, is only about 16 minutes long, the extras included in this package fill the disc’s running time to about two and a half hours. That’s roughly a 10:1 extras-to-feature ratio, rivaling even the Aliens box set. If applied to a longer movie like Titanic or Berlin Alexanderplatz, would cause time itself to collapse inwards under its own weight.

But if I were to pick one film that deserves this sort of decadent star treatment, it would be Heavy Metal Parking Lot. The film celebrates such a remorselessly trashy aesthetic that treating it like lost footage from Citizen Kane is analogous to declaring Sunnyvale Trailer Park a national heritage site, but it’s glorious in its own way. Shot in the parking lot of the Capital Center Arena in Landover on the afternoon of a Judas Priest concert, the film captures a period in time many involved likely want to forget, if they could remember it in the first place. Nearly everyone on camera is drunk, usually beyond the point of being comprehensible, and they’re proud as spiked punch of it. They prance, swagger, slur and bellow their way through their interviews, while the off-camera production duo of John Heyn and Jeff Krulik alternate between sounding bemused and mildly fearful.


There's no narration, but the film lets its subjects speak for themselves, though nothing anyone says speaks louder than the zebra-printed jumpsuit of the film’s most famous character, the aptly-named “Zebraman.” Like the film, he's become quite the cult sensation, appearing in everything from an American Hi-Fi video to Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. Since its creation, Heavy Metal Parking Lot has built up its own fanbase without any promotion whatsoever, like an analog You Tube clip. Imagine if that fat kid playing lightsabres mixed with some footage of drunk celebrities from, and you’ve got an idea of why this film became such an underground hit, allegedly finding its way onto Nirvana’s tour bus during the In Utero tour.  


Shot on video, the picture quality is not great, but for those of us who watched the VHS bootlegs that were widely circulated once power metal bands picked up the momentum only irony can provide, that’s part of the charm. The image has been cleaned up somewhat for the DVD release, but purists needn’t worry. One of the myriad special features is a multiple angle viewing that allows the viewer to switch between the new version and a transfer from an old VHS dub. There’s also a commentary track (fun but useless; no one seems to remember anything), where-are-they-now footage (which ends up being kind of weird), and, best off all, several sequels. The first, Monster Truck Parking Lot, peters out fairly quickly, but not before getting really sad and instilling a sort of despair in the human condition the original film only hints at. Neil Diamond Parking Lot is absolutely astounding, mainly as a sort of counterpoint to the main feature, and Harry Potter Parking Lot is kind of cute, but none of the kids are drunk enough to really make it work.

The rest of the disc contains features that pretty much encompass anything that has ever had anything to do with the film in the history of time, from TV spots to news clips to a really, really long segment in which an avid Priest fan invites us down to his basement and goes through seemingly every record in the world before the camera batteries. Though it can be exhausting to watch in a single sitting, the disc has enough on it to make it well worth the purchase for fans of heavy metal, documentaries, and irony in general.


Rating: 8 on 10

Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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