The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

Before there was Celebrity Rehab, there was The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years.

If the last decade of knobbygirl-ness proves nothing else, it proves that I’ve got an overdeveloped sense of schadenfreude. I fucking love watching people embarrass themselves – especially celebrities. It’s even better when they’re getting paid for it.

VH1 certainly owes it’s current “celebreality” success to Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary on the L.A. Metal scene. The defining scene is Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P., giving an interview from a pool float, while finishing off three bottles of vodka. The interview ends when he pours the rest of a bottle onto his face and he sinks to the bottle of the pool. I’m assuming that someone pulled his ass out of the pool shortly after, because he’s still around. You gotta wonder how much of it was staged. There’s a similarly embarrassing cooking scene with Ozzy Osbourne that is completely staged to make him look like a complete brain dead burnout. It’s obviously the prototype for The Osbournes. There are a bunch of other band interviews – KISS, Alice Cooper and Poison – there was already something obviously wrong with Bret Michael’s hair. Everyone seemed pretty confident that there was no end in sight to their success…

Metal was neatly killed by grunge a few short years after this documentary came out. I hesitate to link the documentary to the rise of grunge – none of my friends were watching fancy documentaries back in High School, we got our music from the radio and to a lesser extent, MTV. Obviously, consumers have little input to what gets played, the record companies decide that with their payola system. So really, the record companies are the ones that pushed metal to the wayside to make way for grunge. In any case, metal is still around (although primarily on VH1, the former home of Michael Bolton and Celine Dion). Where’s grunge? Most of the players are either dead or in Pearl Jam, which is pretty much the same thing.

Speaking of killing a music movement…Maybe Penelope Spheeris should get out there and make a Part IV about Emo.






Sorry, that was the sound of me laughing really hard, lapsing into a coughing fit and spitting into a wastebasket. Say what you want about 80s Hair Metal, at least it wasn’t as boring as Emo. Chicks don’t show their boobs to Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance! Who would even bother watching a documentary about Emo? Emo fans are all too busy hanging out at Hot Topic and updating their MySpace profiles. (Yes, I buy my children clothes at Hot Topic and I have a MySpace profile. Schadenfreude!.)

Green Porno

“Why would she do something like that?”

That’s what my husband asked me after I forced him to watch Green Porno. My response was “Why wouldn’t she?” If someone asked me to dress up in spandex, wear a bug mask and hump a cardboard cut-out of a bumblebee, I would be all like, “Where do I sign up?”

Isabella Rossellini wears spandex and various bug masks as she acts out the mating habits of fireflies, bumblebees and earthworms, among other creatures. It’s all very Sesame Street, with special effects that entirely consist of construction paper, jello and fishing line. I’d hesitate to let my son watch it for a few more years. I don’t think he would take the male bumblebee’s penis breaking off inside of the female too well, although he would love the snail pooping on her own head. As a matter of fact, the snail sequence is my very favorite – do snails really have nipples?

I am going to go find a stoned person and make them watch Green Porno. It will totally fucking blow their mind.

Combover: The Movie

I am now a woman obsessed. Everywhere I look, I now notice the combovers. I can’t stop staring. Even my little baby is sporting a combover!

Combover: The Movie is a documentary capturing the filmmaker’s quest for “extreme combovers.” He literally stands around on busy streets, holding a sign that says “Extreme Combovers Wanted.” As you can imagine, he has a hard time getting combover-ers to be filmed for an interview, even though he is offering $500. He does manage to score a few interviews – by far the strangest guy is the 24 year old skater punk with a combover. He can grow a full head of hair, yet he prefers to shave a bald spot and grow a really long flap to plaster down over it. He has even grown a little molester mustache to match. I can’t remember if he said he is a virgin or if he just hasn’t gotten laid since he started the combover.

The filmmaker spends a lot of time in Texas, leading me to think that my home state is the combover capital of the world. He holds a “best combover” contest at Bill’s Records down in Richardson, where I went to college. He then treks all the way out to an Auto Zone in Lewisville (which the subtitles have hilariously misspelled as Louisville) to see Otis, owner of a really choice combover. I’m guessing that Auto Zone doesn’t pay much, because Otis puts in an interview. The crew then treks down to Pecos, Texas to find the granddaddy of all combovers. I cannot even explain the fabulosity of his combover. It was like a 3 part basket weave, starting at the nape of his neck. No, basket weave is not the right word – it was more like 3 separate flaps, meshed together. That’s not it – you just have to see it to believe it!

The combover is the new mullet!

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey

I never knew that Metal could be so scary.

Seriously, those Norwegians scare the bejesus out of me. Burning down churches and making jewelry out of pieces of their bandmate’s skull. What the hell is wrong with those people? Did their mommies not hug them enough?

Although Norwegian Black Metal certainly deserves the reputation it’s got, what about the rest of it? Anthroplogist/Headbanger Sam Dunn takes a scientific approach to understanding Metal’s Culture. This isn’t Penelope Spheeris interviewing drunken rockers in a swimming pool, bragging about their sexual exploits and single vampire coke nostril (thanks, Patton). Dunn is dissecting Metal in order to understand the fans – not the musicians.

What Dunn discovers is fairly obvious once you get to thinking about it. His main conclusion seems to be that Metal is for misfits – those who don’t fit in and aren’t comfortable with the mainstream seem to be attracted to Metal. Empowering the powerless is a recurring theme in Metal, as are discovering the mysteries of the unknown, namely sex, death and the occult. Is it any wonder that teenagers are attracted to Metal? Not only are they almost entirely powerless, they don’t know shit about sex, are unlikely to have experienced death in any meaningful way and haven’t figured out that the occult is bullshit.

I was fairly amused at Metallica’s brief mention. As important as the band seems to think they are, I’d bet that Lars was knocking on Dunn’s door, whining about their lack of screen time. Although it’s entirely possible that they deigned to join in the interview fun when asked – who knows.

I cry foul at the inclusion of RUSH. They are about as metal as my left tit. Wait – that’s admittedly pretty metal. Correction, RUSH is about as metal as the fucking Wiggles, who are coincidentally, a bunch of tits.

Although it kind of drags at the beginning, it starts to pick up steam and gets interesting about a third of the way through. I doubt that non-Metalheads would find the documentary very interesting, but them again – it wasn’t made for them. Of course, I could be wrong and it was made to warn the world at large about the dangers of Norwegian Black Metal. Crazy Fuckers.


Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

Why are there no more Midnight Movies?

Okay, technically, I know it’s pretty darn easy to find a movie playing at midnight. Practically all theaters now offer midnight showings of mainstream movies. But what happened to those fucked up movies that could only be shown at midnight? Movies that make no sense in the daylight – movies that need the dark.

Midnight Movies covers the six movies released between 1970 and 1977 that defined midnight movies as we know them. Three of them I’ve seen (Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and three of them I haven’t (El Topo, The Harder They Come and Eraserhead). I’ve never even heard of the first two!

There are interviews with the directors of each of the films, as well as stars, producers and those involved in the film in any way. Unlike most film documentaries, actual theater owners and distributors are also interviewed for their takes on the phenomenon.

My absolute number one goal is to see El Topo, which is unfortunately not available on DVD. That looks like the most fucked up movie ever made. It looked like a spaghetti western (or would that be a enchilada western?) but with WAY more violence and WAY more philosophy. I like violence and philosophy, so it’s right up my alley.

As for my Eraserhead procrastination – I can’t explain it. I’ve been putting it off and off…and now I wonder if I will ever sit down and watch it. I think I’m a little bit afraid that I won’t understand it and a lot afraid that I won’t like it. I’m just deathly afraid of losing goodwill towards David Lynch, although Nadja certainly did not help in the goodwill department.

All in all, Midnight Movies provides a good background for those just getting into cult films or a walk down memory lane for those firmly entrenched in the subculture.


Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

Morbid, terrifying, WRONG.

This is the first documentary that I have ever reviewed – and I review it not from an entertainment standpoint, because this will not entertain you. It will scare you that there can be such evil inside a human being to do what was done to these children, and I don’t just mean the three eight year olds that were murdered – I am also talking about the teenagers that were convicted of the crime. It terrifies me to think of the possibility of how corrupt our justice system may be and how easily these boys were railroaded into life in prison, and for one, death by lethal injection.

The film starts out with actual footage of death scene, those poor little broken bodies laying there on the creek bank. I almost cried the first time that I saw it. It’s not for the faint of heart. In the background, Metallica’s Sanitarium plays, ironic, yet fitting at the same time. The film goes on immediately to news footage and the arrest of three teenage boys, and their subsequent convictions on the flimsiest of evidence. I won’t go through the twists and turns, I’ll leave it to you to view and decide.

I’m sure it has happened before. I can see it happening again. And it scares me to the core. On one hand, I am almost to the point in my life where it’s baby time. The thought of some psycho harming my child keeps me up at night now, and I don’t even have children. On the other hand, I am more scared of a world where my child could be convicted of a crime he possibly did not commit.

I grew up in a place like West Memphis – Waller, Texas. It was a small town, a church on every corner and a local chapter of the Klan. Opinions barely existed there. When I was in High School, I ran with what authority thought were ‘the metalheads, the potheads, the losers’. Fuck that, they were my friends. Even though I was an honor student, I chose to hang out with the wild crowd. So? It never affected my grades, I never got in trouble (much) and I went straight to college on a full scholarship when I graduated…so what? We wore all black, listened to Metallica and Dead Horse and everyone in town thought we were satanists, me included. Hah! I was there, I lived in that environment, it could have happened – HELL, it almost did happen. After I moved away to college, a little girl disappeared in my hometown. They had house to house searches, and after a few days, they found her dead and raped in the attic of some guy. This guy was the uncle of my friend of mine. I think he was even living there at the time. According to my ex – they got high under that dead body every day for a week, and it creeped him out. He seemed baffled by the whole thing. But they got hassled by the cops, grilled for some kind of involvement. Thankfully, nothing ever happened to them, my friend’s uncle got the death penalty and I guess he is still there. My point is, if you are a teenager wearing black, that’s it, the cops have you pegged as a kid-killing satanist, you might as well pack your bags for Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison.

I’m not just here, jumping on the celebrity bandwagon. Eddie Vedder can always be seen wearing a West Memphis Three T-shirt. Trey Parker and Matt Stone even yelled “Free the West Memphis Three!” at the MTV Movie Awards. There’s even a celebrity benefit CD out. But do they really care, or is this just the cause of the month for them?

I guess it is possible that they did it. Anything is possible on this fucked up planet. But after seeing John Mark Byers, the step-father of one the victims, rant and rave and blow away pumpkins, I’d put my bets on him. I guess we’ll never know the truth behind what happened – and do the parents sleep better at night, just because someone – anyone – is in jail? I wouldn’t.