Here's a quick breakdown on some of my favorite Heavy Metal-themed flicks from the last 25 years. Somewhat of a companion piece to the "Metal Literature" post I wrote awhile back. Enjoy!
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, PART II: THE METAL YEARS (1988)
Here's a good one to start with. Penelope Spheeris followed up her 1981 documentary on the L.A. punk scene, 'The Decline of Western Civilization', with this look at the sleazy world of late-80's glam-metal. Pretty much everyone in the movie comes off as a total moron (besides the always-cool Lemmy), to the point that the interview with Dave Mustaine toward the end of the flick actually makes him seem kind of intelligent. I can't help but think that this movie was training, in a way, for Spheeris to make 'Wayne's World' 4 years later. Anyway, great unintentional comedy, but don't look too closely. The stupidity can actually get depressing.
Highlights: Drunken tirades from W.A.S.P.'s Chris Holmes (see 2nd video below), my roommate Chuffy stagediving during the Megadeth song at the end of the movie (he's the guy with long red hair, flannel shirt and ripped jeans).
Lowlights: All metalheads being portrayed as idiotic Sunset Strip douchenozzles.
RIVER'S EDGE (1986)
Makes the list just for the awesome scenes of Hessian youths Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves cruising around in a souped up Beetle listening to 'Show No Mercy'-era Slayer. The rest of the movie is a heavy trip too, as a group of high school metal kids maintain their silence after one of their own murders his girlfriend. Plenty of psychological intensity ensues as the group is torn asunder by shifting loyalties to both each other and their dead friend. Overall, a REALLY great movie.
Bonus: 'River's Edge' drinking game = watch the movie and take a shot every time you hear a sample that Dystopia has used.
Highlights: Dennis Hopper as freaked-out weed dealer Feck, aforementioned Slayer jams being bumped in said Volkswagen.
Lowlights: Drama, introspection, "feelings".
TRICK OR TREAT (1986)
Another total gem from 1986, this one stars Marc Price ("Skippy" from 'Family Ties') as a troubled metalhead who receives assistance from a deceased rocker to get revenge on the school bullies. The rocker in question, one "Sammi Curr" contacts Skippy via possessed record passed down from a local DJ named Nuke. Chaos, violence, and gore are the outcome as he wages war on his former tormentors, using his newfound powers to maim, kill, and score chicks. Of course, this movie has to end with a cozy "message" about always using your powers for good, when it would have been way cooler as a straight-up Hessian revenge fantasy. Oh well.
Soundtrack by Fast Eddie Clark's post-Motorhead band, Fastway.
Highlights: Establishing shots of sweet '86 metal merch in dude's bedroom at beginning of film, Walkman demon ravaging chick in back seat of car, Ozzy Osbourne cameo as televangelist.
Lowlights: Toolbag Gene Simmons' cameo as radio DJ.
METAL: A HEADBANGER'S JOURNEY (2005)
Finally, a REAL metalhead (filmmaker Sam Dunn) gets the budget, know-how and studio backing to make a REAL documentary about REAL heavy metal. Dude knows his stuff, and travels extensively around the U.S. and Europe (Wacken Open Air is featured prominently) proving it. Lots of interesting interviews with many a heavy metal icon (Bruce Dickinson, George Corpsegrinder, and Gaahl to name a few), plus live band footage and a well-done section on Norweigan black metal. Solid filmmaking from start to finish. Shelby likes.
Highlights: A rare glimpse into awesome rocker Ronnie James Dio's ceramic frog collection, very drunk and mean members of Mayhem at Wacken Open Air.
Lowlights: Uhhhh... Was Slipknot in this movie?
WAYNE'S WORLD (1992)
More of a "Hard Rock" comedy than "Heavy Metal" (Garth sports Van Halen and Aerosmith T-shirts for nearly the entire film), I had to include this one just because it's one of my all-time favorites. I was 13 when it came out, and saw it 5 times in the theater. I have seen it many, many times since. "Crucial Taunt, The Jolly Green Giants, and The Shitty Beatles".
Highlights: Too many to list.
Lowlights: Alice Cooper's "Feed My Frankenstein".
A weird, artsy movie from Harmony Korine ("Kids", "Julian Donkey Boy") about the residents of a small town recently wiped out by a tornado. Creepy and disturbing, the extensive cast are portrayed as the epitome of white trash, spending their days killing cats for meat to sell to a local Chinese restaurant, eating candy bars in bathtubs, or getting drunk and rasslin' each other in the basement. Reminds me a Hell of a lot of what it was like to grow up in Humboldt County, actually. Yuck.
Extra credit points given for the amazing soundtrack, which features, among others, Sleep, Brujeria, Spazz, Bathory, and Absu.
Highlights: Brutal soundtrack, mentally challenged girl wearing Krokus shirt.
Lowlights: Overall "dirty" feeling at end of film.
HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD (2007)
An amazing documentary from the guys at Vice Magazine about the only metal band in Iraq, Acrassicauda. These guys' dedication to The Metal is truly inspiring, keeping their band together despite living in a warzone (halfway through the film, their practice space gets bombed). The obstacles and barriers they face are daunting, but Acrassicauda soldiers through, never questioning their ultimate calling: to play awesome heavy metal fast and loud. This movie actually tugged at my rusty ol' heart-strings quite a bit, and it's also the only place I've ever seen real, ground-level footage of what daily life is like in the streets of Baghdad. Brutal.
Highlights: Check out the uplifting 45-minute epilogue in the bonus features on the DVD.
Lowlights: "America Guilt".
ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987)
I have a shameful, shameful confession to make: I've never seen this movie. My Pose has been Exposed. I'M SOOO FUCKING LAME. Booo, Shelby. Boooooo.
Is it just me or does Thor kinda have a "Bowie in Labyrinth" sorta thing going on here?
BLACK ROSES (1988)
Cautionary tale about a group of dangerous, demonic mutants who invade a small town under the guise of a metal band. They poison the bodies and minds of the town's youth, turning them against their God-fearing parents and causing them to commit atrocious acts of sex and murder. Good, gory horror, and a solid attempt by the filmmakers to truly uncover the hidden dangers of Heavy Metal music. Soundtrack features Bang Tango, King Kobra, Hallow's Eve, and Lizzy Borden.
Highlights: Awful late 80's B-movie acting.
Lowlights: Awful late 80's B-movie acting.
GET THRASHED (2007)
Another solid metal doc, this one released just over a year ago. Like "A Headbanger's Journey", great attention is given to detail as the full story of Thrash Metal is revealed. Many more metal luminaries receive screen time, but next time, let's skip the segments on Slipknot's Corey Taylor and born-again Dave Mustaine. A solid B+, though.
Highlights: Obscure footage of a shitload of awesome 80's thrash bands, Katon W. DePena.
Lowlights: Read the cover - Pantera, Slipknot, Hatebreed, Megadeth, etc.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984)
You just can't fuck with the classics, man.
Highlights: Cucumber wrapped in tinfoil, "Stonehenge"