In the lobby of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, people milled about, chatting excitedly about NextNOW headliner Mitski’s performance or any of the festival’s other attention-grabbing Saturday night events.
But inside the 300-seat Gildenhorn Recital Hall, less than 20 people sat quietly, waiting for the chaos to begin.
And really, chaos is the only way to describe Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 17-minute montage of 80s hair, “Fuck Off” t-shirts and drunk teenage metal fans. The documentary short is a disturbing keepsake of the VHS age, like a picture of your dad in college you desperately wish you could unsee but can’t.
But plenty of people have seen Heavy Metal Parking Lot — the documentary was a viral success during the ’90s, thanks mostly to bootlegged tape copies. Fans of the film included Nirvana, John Waters, Sofia Coppola and now, more than likely, those present for Saturday’s screening.
Filmed in 1986 outside of a Judas Priest concert at the now-demolished Capital Centre by University of Maryland alumnus Jeff Krulik and director John Heyn, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is as simple in premise as it is perfect in execution. The filmmakers ask concertgoers simple, everyman questions (“Who are you here to see?,” “Are you fucked up?”) and let the exuberant, intoxicated teenagers do the talking.
“Let’s make a joint so big it fits across America, and everybody smoke it,” one acid-tripping youth proclaimed.
“We got it stocked, stocked with beer,” another Judas Priest fan said, showing off a packed cooler. “Ya know, Busch and Budweiser, ya know, you got your choices.”
“Heavy metal rules, all that punk shit sucks,” a zebra stripe-wearing teen shouted in a now-famous tirade. “It doesn’t belong in this world, it belongs on fucking Mars!!”
But as Krulik — who was at the screening to answer questions about the film’s legacy, its numerous sequels and where the people featured in it are now — explained, the film remains popular 30 years later not just for its endless quotability, but for the unique perspective it offers on ’80s suburbia and subculture.
“Nobody had cameras back then, no one had phones with cameras… certainly in a parking a lot,” Krulik told the small but engaged audience. “We were just really lucky to capture what we did.”
That’s really the magic of Heavy Metal Parking Lot — it’s a glimpse into a music scene now long forgotten, and even then, inaccessible to the general public. And with the NextNOW screening and Q&A, Krulik and The Clarice were able to bring some of its terrifying excitement to an even younger audience.
And if the NextNOW screening wasn’t enough Heavy Metal Parking Lot for you (or more likely, if you missed it) — you can visit the 30-year anniversary exhibit about the film in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library.