Film Review: Last Days Here

A living horror show, rocker Bobby Liebling’s sad, appalling tale is told in a film that will have some niche appeal but little else.

Diane and Joe Liebling of Germantown, Maryland, surely deserve some kind of medal for parental tolerance. Residing in their basement for decades is their son, Bobby Liebling, the burnt-out, drug-addicted rocker whose seminal 1970s band, Pentagram, never lived up to its initial, considerable promise, largely due to his self-destructive ways.

Co-directors Don Argott and Demian Fenton have literally dug up this fascinating, if rather stomach-turning, subject for their awestruck documentary Last Days Here, likening him to a caveman in ice. Liebling, toothless and frighteningly gaunt, is anything but camera-friendly, and when you factor in his paranoid delusion that parasites are eating him alive, causing him to hideously claw at his own flesh, it’s something of a grim prospect for the viewer. But it’s the music that matters here—Liebling was a definite pioneer of doom metal—and for three years the filmmakers follow Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, his diehard manager, who is determined to score his idol one last chance at a recording. Although most people around him, including his mother, expect him to completely self-destruct, Liebling tells the filmmakers, “If you want me around, I’ll stick around.” He even signs a contract with Pelletier, promising to lay off the drugs, with the condition that, should he relapse, he will give up his entire record collection.

Talent aside, there’s nothing duller than the rantings of an addict trying to self-cure, and Liebling is no exception, even at one point evoking “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll” as his mea culpa. Thank God, then, for those parents, who emerge as the real, compelling protagonists of the film. Despite every setback, which includes a jail stint for their son which occurred during the filming and is frustratingly glossed over, they have implicit belief in his talent, not to mention unconditional love. Joe served as Defense Department adviser to a string of U.S. presidents and admits to having spent more than $1 million on Bobby, only hoping for him to “be in the range of normalcy.” Diane is equally likeable, bustling about her crowded kitchen over a pot of chili while discussing the living corpse in her basement, to whom she brings Fig Newtons and assures for the umpteenth time that no, he doesn’t have parasites.