A bromance of idol and idolator wrapped inside a potential rock-doc tragedy, Last Days Here doesn’t flinch from the sad spectacle of doom metal singer Bobby Liebling at his nadir, but you will. First seen as a 53-year-old cult hero living in his elderly parents’ suburban sub-basement, Liebling is a quaking, nearly skeletal substance abuser, digging for a crack pipe under a cushion and delusionally plucking his skin raw in fear of “parasites.” Filmmakers Don Argott and Demian Fenton appear to be preparing their audience for a spiral into the grave, with a horrific close-up of Bobby’s self-inflicted arm wound and the piercing laments of his mother (“They call us enablers”) as she and her husband, a career Defense Department bureaucrat, speculate numbly in their kitchen about their son’s nearly complete self-destruction. A final chance at deliverance comes from Sean Pelletier, an amiable vinyl-and-cassette nerd who has been obsessed with Liebling’s revolving-door band Pentagram since pubescence, and now takes on the mission of rescuing his hero by becoming his manager and warning in a gentle voice, “You’re gonna fucking die, man.”
Keeping the archival musical clips of young Liebling’s feral crouching, yowling, and snarling brief to focus on Pelletier’s tireless efforts to engineer a record deal or comeback gig, and Bobby’s maddening fragility, dodgy pledges to stay clean, and on-and-off romance with a much younger super fan that degenerates into stalking, Argott and Fenton succeed in making the tenacious love between worshippers and fallen god the emotional core of Last Days Here. The redemption of this fuck-up seems far from inevitable, through jail stints and broken promises, but Bobby possesses a measured attitude toward the vaudevillian aspect of his songs “about fucking corpses” that belies his adolescent fixations on sex, drugs, and bacon pizza. “Beneath this put-on, this shell,” he proclaims with a caress of his bony frame, he just craves a soul mate, and the concluding feel-good movements of this doc allow for the improbable entry of such love, and professional stability, into a life that seemed irretrievably lost. Anvil! The Story of Anvil may have had the comedy of a low-rent metal existence higher in the mix, but Bobby Liebling, whose filmed humiliations and comatose wipeouts at gigs are too pathetic to merit even a guilty chuckle, has a story that rather bracingly puts dignity within his grasp.