I wonder, sometimes, if reality is constantly changing around us. Like, if anyone ever learns too much about something, reality will change just a little to mess with them, or to teach them some humility. The reason I say this, dear reader, is because I have seen a lot of 1980s “summer” movies – the teen raunch, holiday destination type of thing. A lot. Yet, in 2015, there are still movies from that era I’ve never heard of, much less seen, and I feel a little surprised by that. That brings us to “Heavy Metal Summer” (aka “State Park”, as generic and boring a title as I’ve ever heard, so thank heavens they changed it).
I’m also becoming familiar with the works of Rafal Zielinski, who appears to have reinvented himself in the 2000s as an arthouse director of sorts, but in that brief blissful period of Canadian tax relief for movie companies, was the go-to guy for resort-based laughs. Both “Screwballs” movies, “Recruits”, “National Lampoon’s Last Resort” and this all bear his name, and they’re a weirdly mixed bag in terms of quality, boobs-per-minute, and other real genuine measures.
While a cheap rip-off of Yello’s “Oh Yeah” plays, we’re introduced to the main players in our little tale, and the location which will be their home. Eve, Marsha and Linnie are on their way to Camp Weewankah so Eve (the beautiful Kim Myers, from “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2” and “Hellraiser 4”) can win a “wilderness race” to pay for college; Johnny Rocket and Louis are a couple of heavy metallers, on their way to LA to make it big, but decide to stop off at the Camp to rest up for a day or two; Truckie works at the camp and is disgusted that the state is selling off its asset to a pesticide company for them to build a factory, and is therefore moonlighting as “Weewankah Willie”, dressing in a bear outfit and committing acts of vandalism to expose evil boss Rancewell to the rest of the world.
What’s surprising and refreshing about “Heavy Metal Summer” is how it’s from the perspective of the women, for the most part. Eve is dealing with her parents’ bankruptcy in a decent, mature way by trying to provide for herself, Linnie is thinking about getting married so decides to play the field a little first, to see if she really likes the guy she’s going to get engaged to, and Marsha just wants to check out guys. Add the female park ranger checking out the naked dudes and you’ve got, for the 80s at least, a feminist movie! Okay, there’s boobs in it, but at such a low level as to be almost invisible by the standards of the time.
Apart from the cartoonishly evil head Park Ranger and Rancewell, everyone sort of seems like a real character too. The old couple who’ve parked up next to the Heavy Metal van are excellent, there’s a good number of supporting characters who do a decent job, and…I probably ought to check myself before I say anything I’ll regret, but this is a pretty fun little movie. If the purpose of the “Endless Bummer” review series is to unearth a few hidden gems, then consider this one unearthed. There’s no particular rhyme or reason to why this one works – the writer is just one of the many unsung hacks who work mostly in TV; the director’s oeuvre has already been discussed; there’s no particularly strong acting work (apart from Kim Myers, I suppose)…it’s just that all the elements chime together, those old standards work because they’re standards sometimes. The subplot of financial crisis seems perhaps more pressing and relatable to our 2015 eyes.
Okay, it’s not perfect – did anyone ever say “I’ve never even talked to a heavy metaller before?” (although the way the weirdo and the normal girl come together is unusual and good fun), and right-wing gun nut Ted Nugent pops up for a brief cameo, which always spoils things. But it has one of those things for which I’ll resurrect “Is Always Funny”:
“Beach bums who say dude a lot and are perpetually cheerful and stupid are always funny” (this is a subset of the “stupid but friendly jock” archetype)
You may disagree, but I say “bah!” to you. Used in the right proportion to the rest of the movie, the two guys here (so stupid it takes them ages to figure out their boat isn’t moving because they never started the motor) lift every scene they’re in. They’ve been replaced by the stoner in modern movies, but I look forward to the return of the beach bum. While I’m waiting, we’ve got movies like this to enjoy. It’s on Youtube, so as long as you’re not in too demanding a mood, you’ll enjoy this one. One last warning – how big is your tolerance for guys in Speedos? There are a lot of guys wearing very little material in this one.
Rating: thumbs up