They are drunks, squatters, and parasites. They crash through the alleys and mosh pits of Los Angeles, sporting peacock plumage, never happier than when they’re admitting that they may not be alive in five years. In The Decline of Western Civilization: Part III, the latest in Penelope Spheeris’ gripping series of nihilist rock documentaries, the homeless, baby zombie ”gutterpunks” at the center of L.A.’s hardcore music world hardly add up to a ”scene.” They’re more like the final ash flick of bohemianism – a suicidal footnote to half a century of rock rebellion that may just be ending with them.
Unlike the first two ”Decline” films, this one is only tangentially concerned with music. The bands, full of knee-jerk hatred, have grown mostly irrelevant in their joyless, buzz kill drone, and what Spheeris is left with is an empathetic portrait of fringe dweller kids who have no empathy for themselves. Instead, they create a studded collar victim culture. They’re the walking teen dead, and all the gutter is their stage.