Picks and Pans Review: The Decline of Western Civilization Part Ii: the Metal Years

UPDATED 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

Director Penelope Spheeris (PEOPLE, July 4) made a cult name for herself with the 1981 Decline, a bleak documentary about antisocial L.A. punk rockers. The sequel, on heavy metal mania in today's L.A., is flashier and funnier. Spheeris hardly supports Tipper Gore's campaign against metal devils. She delights in the music, if not the stupid behavior, it can incite. Spheeris shows that some head bangers use fame not as a creative spur but as an excuse to wallow in excess. Gene Simmons of Kiss is interviewed at a lingerie shop; fellow Kiss-er Paul Stanley is seen in bed being groped by groupies; former druggie Steven Tyler of Aerosmith talks of having "snorted up all of Peru." It's disturbing to see teen fans lap up this pap. If Spheeris stopped there, Decline II could be dismissed as exploitation. But Spheeris, 42 and mother of a daughter who's 18, doesn't stop there. She shows how sexism and drugs make victims of metal stars and fans alike. An interview with Chris Holmes of W.A.S.R swilling vodka in his pool, his mother looking on in disgust, is a stinging indictment. The movie stands as a warning for teens against naive idolatry. "I care about these kids," says Spheeris. Even while she treads familiar ground, that caring lifts her film above the herd. (R)

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