[Gut The Punks!] Heavy Metal Jeff’s Guide To Avoiding Hell In PORNO

This month at Nightmare On Film Street is Hot As Hell. We’re talking all about that warm place down in the basement and all the creatures that come out of it. We’re all probably going to Hell for liking horror movies, but if you follow the advice of my friend here, you might have a fighting chance of missing out on an eternity of punishment. I’d like to introduce you to Heavy Metal Jeff from the horror comedy Porno. Out of all the cast, Jeff is my favorite character, and he has some of the best lines in the movie. However, Jeff is misunderstood by his coworkers, and I feel like he’s also misunderstood by most of the audience. To better explain Jeff’s deal, I will need to give you a rundown of straight edge culture, and how it evolved into Christian hardcore.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrsLrfn6p4o

 

Set in the summer of 1992, in a small Middle-American town with strong Christian values, the local movie theatre offers only two options: Encino Man or A League of Their Own. Working the front of house is teenage pervert Abe (Evan Daves), his best friend Todd (Larry Saperstein), baseball jock (Glenn Stott) and assistant manager Chaz (Jillian Mueller). Up in the projection booth is Jeff (Robbie Tann), a college dropout. All of them come from God-fearing families, and their faith is very integral to their daily routine. As is tradition, every Friday after locking up, their manager Mr. Pike (Bill Philips) lets the teens stay behind and a watch whatever movie they choose. But as they’re closing up, the kids realize that someone is still hanging around in the screening room. He looks (and smells) like a homeless man, muttering to himself. When they ask him to get out, the man goes wild and breaks through a secret door hidden in the lobby’s wall. The teens follow him down into the basement and discover another abandoned movie theatre. There they find a movie reel in a mysterious glowing case.

They ask Jeff to put the movie on. What plays is a strange arthouse film, with men in cloaks ringing bells. In the center of the screen, a dark haired woman. She drops her robe, but Jeff immediately shuts off the movie at the first sign of nudity. The teens agree that Jesus would not want them to watch that movie, but they can’t seem to forget what they saw, provoked by their first pornographic film (keep in mind this is in the ‘90s, when porn was a lot harder to access). But the film isn’t your regular porno. By watching it, they accidentally summoned a sex demon, better known as a succubus, an entity that seduces its victims before savagely killing them. With their manager gone for the night, it’s up to the teens to find a way of sending the evil spirit back from whence it came.

Don’t let the nickname fool you. Heavy Metal Jeff doesn’t actually listen to heavy metal. His musical genre of choice is hardcore. His colleagues just don’t know the difference, nor do they really care. Their understanding of heavy metal is that the music is satanic, and that Jeff is a walking contradiction for listening to it. But if you’ll allow me to explain, Jeff’s Christian values are in fact supported by his taste in music.

 

Jeff is misunderstood by his coworkers, and I feel like he’s also misunderstood by most of the audience.”

 

Jeff is proudly straight edge. The term “straight edge” was invented by Washington DC hardcore punk band Minor Threat. The lifestyle is described in the lyrics of “Out Of Step”—“I don’t smoke / I don’t drink / I don’t fuck / At least I can fucking think!”—and, of course, in their song “Straight Edge” – “I’m a person just like you / But I’ve got better things to do / Than sit around and fuck my head / Hang out with the living dead.” Singer Ian MacKaye wrote these songs from his perspective, stating he preferred abstinence over the heavy indulgence he saw in the punk scene. By being straight edge, he could think with a clear head and not potentially ruin his life.

When they were first starting out, Minor Threat wasn’t allowed to perform in bars because of their young age, even if they weren’t planning on drinking. But they wanted people of all ages to be welcome to their shows, so the band compromised the bar owners, saying they would draw Xs on the back of their hands with sharpies. That way, the bartenders would know who isn’t allowed to purchase alcohol. The look caught on as a way of informing the world of their choice of sobriety, inside and outside of shows. And that’s why Jeff has Xs on his hands. It’s not clear whether they’re tattoos, or he draws them on every day.

Although Minor Threat only lasted from 1980 to 1983, their influence cannot be overstated. The members went off to play in other projects, and some of them eventually started drinking, but MacKaye, now 58 years old, has remained drug-free his entire life. Other hardcore bands like 7 Seconds, Youth of Today and SS Decontrol subscribed to the straight edge lifestyle, creating a network across the US. Touring bands would reach out to other straight edge crews, as to avoid playing to drunken crowds in bars. Jeff is a particular fan of the Orange County band Uniform Choice. In his introduction scene, Jeff is seen rocking out to their song “Straight and Alert,” before he’s interrupted by Chaz.

The straight edge community takes great pride in their chosen lifestyle, but, as is the case with Jeff, it could come off as somewhat pretentious. In their point of view, people who do drugs are subhuman. Referring to the homeless man in the theatre, Jeff says “He thinks he’s doing drugs, but really, the drugs are doing him!” Sometime in the future, I’d like to write a column on Straight Edge Kegger, a party slasher that shows what can happen when straight edge culture becomes militant, to an extreme.

 



Hot at the Shop:


 

Jeff is very careful not to slip up, or “break edge.” Taking a single drug or having one lustful thought would mean betraying himself, his community and God. When he shuts off the movie, Jeff yells “I am not breaking edge for your European titty movie!” His biggest struggle is with tobacco. He smoked a lot in college, but now that he’s back home, he hasn’t smoked in over a year. When he catches Chaz and Ricky smoking in the alleyway behind the theatre, he snatches the cigarettes from their mouthes, yelling “Do you want to show up to Heaven smelling like an ashtray?!” The succubus uses this against Jeff by seductively smoking two cigarettes in front of him. Facing off against the demon is Jeff’s biggest test. He tries to resist giving into his urges, but the demon is too powerful, and explodes Jeff’s scrotum using just her mind. Even when he’s bleeding on the floor in serious agony, Jeff still refuses to take the painkillers Ricky offers him.

Being straight edge requires a lot of self-discipline, and the practice tends to go hand-in-hand with other lifestyle choices like veganism or Christianity. This led to the creation of Christcore or “Spirit-Filled Hardcore,” which took the aggressive sound of hardcore, but injected positivity into the lyrics, pushing the listener to embrace a life free of sin and vice. Many punk bands rejected religion, and many religious organizations rejected punk. Christcore gave young believers the best of both worlds; all the musical ferocity, without the risk of damnation. The ‘90s saw the emergence of such bands like The Crucified, Living Sacrifice, Believer, and probably the best of the bunch, Zao. Ignoring the fact that they’re Christian, some of these bands are really good. It’s very likely some of these bands are in Jeff’s heavy rotation. Jeff also plans to form a Christcore band of his own. By working at the movie theatre and living in his mom’s basement rent-free, he hopes to save up for his own drum kit. As much as these bands were criticized by their secular and atheist counterparts, they found success in their own circles thanks to the backing of Christian music labels and church-sponsored alcohol-free music festivals. After all, what’s more punk rock than being rejected by punk rockers?

It’s possible Jeff would have been more accepted in the early 2000s, when Christian rock music became more prominent in the mainstream, with bands like MXPX and P.O.D. Especially in the metalcore scene, a large majority of popular groups were Christian, like Norma Jean, The Devil Wears Prada and As I Lay Dying. I remember being turned onto Demon Hunter and Underoath by the counsellors at the Jesus Camp I used to go to (Jeff actually reminds me a lot of them), so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about my taste for loud music. Their Christian message was subtle, and therefore, more acceptable by the general public. You would have to read between the lines to get it, that is, if you can actually make out words they’re screaming.

 

“I am not breaking edge for your European titty movie!” – Heavy Metal Jeff

 

But the success of Christian metalcore scene didn’t last long. These bands were not immune to criticism and the hypocrites within their midst. In 2006, Underoath were openly mocked for setting up a Bible study tent at the Vans Warped Tour. But probably the biggest blow to the came in 2013, when Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying was arrested for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his wife (I guess asking for a divorce would have made him look bad). Lambesis later admitted that he had given up his faith years ago, but kept up the delusion of being a Christian to sell records. It was around this time that many of these bands reconsidered their faith as they got older. Many of them were teenagers when they started playing music, building their community by touring in church basements across the Midwest. But like the kids in Porno will likely find out for themselves, a lot changes when you grow up and move out of your parents’ house.

Chaz is on her own journey of self-discovery. She tells Ricky about a summer fling she had with a boy, which involved them driving around listening to goth bands like the Cure. Since then, she’s been dressing in darker clothes and wearing more makeup. Discovering a whole new world of music for the first time is like falling in love for the first time, and listening to a song from the past can summon up those feelings of butterflies in your stomach all over again. For the sake of Porno’s timestamp, I’ll only be adding bands mentioned above from the 90s and earlier to the Gut the Punks Spotify Playlist.

So there you go. If you want to avoid the fiery pits of Hell, do what Heavy Metal Jeff does: don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t think about sex (well, that does it, looks like I’m going to Hell). Join a straight edge crew that will keep you in check. Don’t break your edge. You don’t have to give up loud punk music, just listen to Christian bands, or start your own. And finally, don’t watch movies you find in a secret movie theatre, because you just might summon a sex demon who will explode your testicles.

 

 

 

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