Due to its stronger-than-usual penchant for pretentious bombast, heavy metal makes for ripe comedy fodder. Even the genre’s documentaries can’t be taken fully straight: Anvil! The Story of Anvil plays, somewhat uncomfortably, as a real-life This is Spinal Tap—the drummer is even named Robb Reiner—while the sight of Metallica badasses whimpering through group therapy sessions in Some Kind of Monster provides endless amusement. Last Days Here breaks the trend: it’s not funny because the life of its subject, Bobby Liebling, is not funny.
The frontman, apparent mastermind and lone consistent member of cult doom metal outfit Pentagram, Liebling has let a lack of titanic success and four decades of intense drug use turn him into a corpse granted the bare minimum of life. When first seen, he’s wasting away in his parents’ sub-basement, looking older than his innkeepers despite being in his early 50s. His face is ravaged by pockmarks and drugs; his behavior consists mostly of semi-intelligent garble and long bouts of dead-sleep. Sudden, belated interest in Pentagram’s work lands him with Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, his plucky fanboy-turned-agent, who’s driven to get his charge cleaned up enough not to fuck up a comeback.
Filmed over three years, Last Days Here benefits from the patience of its documentarians, Demian Fenton and Don Argott (Rock School, The Art of the Steal), as well as its subject choice. Neither Liebling nor his band has ever entered the mainstream, meaning we’re witnessing one of the countless artists who’ve let potential be wasted on life's bullshit. Despite going cold turkey on an epic cocktail of drugs—coke, heroin, meth and other fun ingredients, all taken habitually—Liebling, like so many, winds up getting distracted by romantic problems. The nasty turnout makes a fallback all but inevitable.
Last Days Here could stand more footage of Liebling’s darker sides, the ones that have made Pentagram have more former members than Blood, Sweat & Tears, and which drive his beloved to eventually take out a restraining order on him. But even with an ending that could stand to be more cautious in its optimism, the film ably captures the rollercoaster nature of caring for someone prone, at all turns, and often for no apparent reason, to self-sabotage.