Party Like It's 1999: Detroit Rock City
For the next several weeks, we are celebrating films celebrating their 20th anniversary this year that have stuck with us! Find additional entries in the series here.
Ah, Detroit Rock City. Not many people know this about me, but I have probably seen Detroit Rock City (DRC from now on) more than any other movie. Why? For me, it’s not difficult to pinpoint my initial attraction to this movie. No, I’m not a diehard KISS fan. Nor had I heard of Small Soldiers (1998), which was written by DRC’S director Adam Rifkin. No. For me, my interest sprouted after I saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) for the first time, and fell head over heels in love with Edward Furlong. I’m serious. I’ve seen almost every movie he’s ever been in (and DUH that includes Brainscan (1994), a personal favorite of mine). I even made it official back in 2001 (when I was the spry age of 13) that I would one day marry Edward. (I guess I dodged a bullet there.)
This is all to say that I was extremely invested in Edward Furlong’s career from about the age of 12. I was probably a little too young when I saw DRC for the first time, so there was a lot of nuances that went over my head. Regardless, I loved it. I might have watched it for Edward Furlong, but I kept rewatching it because there was such a fun, silly, wonderful energy and urgency to the plot.
The film follows four teens in the late ‘70s who worship the band KISS, and curse the rise of disco. There’s the stoner-type Trip (James DeBello), cool-guy Hawk (Edward “Dreamboat” Furlong), anxiety-ridden Lex (Giuseppe Andrews), and the hopeful romantic, Jam (Sam Huntington). The ridiculous tone of the movie is set right away, as the film opens on Jam’s mother (played by Lin Shaye) as she settles in to her typical, tacky ‘70s living room after selecting a record by The Carpenters. She begins to take a sip of red wine, when none other than KISS begins to play. Mayhem ensues as Jam’s mother begins to writhe about as if she is being possessed by the devil himself—in fact, she soon after states that KISS stands for “Knights in Satan’s Service.” After Jam’s mom ceremoniously incinerates the KISS concert tickets she finds, the aspiring rock stars begin their insane journey to do whatever it takes to see their idols perform in Detroit, Michigan.
Watching the movie now in 2019, I’m not shocked to report that I still love it, and I still know most of the words (that may be lame, but seeing something, realistically, close to 40 times will do that). While it surely has its faults, it will always have a special place in my heart. I also think that its representation of Satanic Panic as a completely insane and ludicrous concept is actually handled very deftly, in the form of a group of likeminded religious moms all against KISS as devil worshiping music. It’s not all stupid stoner jokes, after all! I will always be grateful to Adam Rifkin for making this, and a lot of childhood dreams came true for me when quite a few years ago I got to interview Rifkin for this very website. Shockingly, I kept my wits about me and did not ask any questions about Edward Furlong.
A very happy 20 years to this silly, wonderful, strange little movie that 12 year-old me grew to love so dearly.