by Madeleine Criglow
Seattle band Cerebral Rot plays music made for lovers of filth. The band’s upcoming album Odious Descent into Decay features tracks with titles like “Swamped in Festering Excrementia,” and their sound is pure sludgy death metal at its best. It’s no surprise they’ve been chosen to open a screening of The Return of the Living Dead this Friday at Seattle’s newest movie theater The Beacon.
As a metal fan myself, the pairing got me thinking about the genre’s relationship with film. Movies like Wayne’s World and This Is Spinal Tap are widely known classics. In searching Scarecrow’s library, I found more gems in metal history that ranged from iconic to rare and hard to find. Here are some of my favorites.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986), d. Jeff Krulik and John Heyn
When an employee of Landover, Maryland’s Capital Centre is asked about heavy metal fans, he responds, “I’ve never seen such a thing in all my life.” Heavy Metal Parking Lot follows metal fans tailgating before a Judas Priest concert in 1986. Though only fifteen minutes long, the film captures an unflinching snapshot of the scene. Teenagers and adults alike chug beer, trash punks, and give drunken renditions of Priest songs as the filmmakers ask them how they got there and why they love heavy metal so much. The film’s emotional peak comes near the end, when a group of teenagers share they’ve come to honor the memory of their friend Timmy, the biggest Judas Priest that ever lived.
The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988), d. Penelope Spheeris
Section: Heavy Metal and Hard Rock
Penelope Spheeris’s documentary is the second film of The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy. In this installment, Spheeris turns her camera on the Los Angeles heavy metal scene from 1986 to 1988. It features some stellar interviews with icons like Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy Kilmister, but what makes the film so interesting is Spheeris’s conversations with the musicians that never make it. When she asks this group of unknowns if they think they’ll ever be rockstars, their universal conviction is fascinating and ultimately captures the exuberant spirit of heavy metal. The film also examines metal’s flaws, shining a light on the scene’s unavoidable issues with misogyny and white male entitlement.
Detroit Metal City (2008), d. Toshio Lee
Section: Live Action Manga
This adaptation of Kiminori Wakasugi’s manga series is by far the wildest of the bunch. When Soichi Negishi moves to Tokyo to follow his dream of becoming a folk singer, he soon discovers his ultimate calling as the lead singer of Japan’s biggest death metal band Detroit Metal City. Adopting the alter ego of death metal superstar Johannes Krauser II, Soichi hides his talent from his friends and family. What follows is a film that is just as much about the glorious depravity of death metal as it is about being yourself and following your dreams. The movie also features fictional all girl band High!! Punk!!, whose fantastic performance eviscerates any doubt about women in heavy metal.
Madeleine Criglow is an employee of Scarecrow Video. She writes about music, film, and pop culture for her zine Sludge Party. For more reviews follow her on letterboxd.