I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Deadbeat at Dawn

What this is is a no-budget first timer trying to prove himself 16mm type movie. A film student named Jim Van Bebber stars in it and directed it, using his film school buddies as actors, spending many years and sweating alot of blood to make his movie and prove himself. He finally finished it in 1988, but it feels more like early ’80s or at times even late ’70s. I think he was definitely trying to make a movie like EVIL DEAD or TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE or something but one thing that makes it unique, he made an action movie instead of a horror movie. But he still put in a whole lot of bleeding and stabbing and screaming and dying, etc.

Now, there are alot of reasons not to like this movie. There is alot of bad acting and dialogue, awkward and amateurish shots, self conscious attempts at shocking the audience. Worse than that, it is a movie about gangs with names like The Spyders and The Ravens. And the characters have names like Goose and Bonecrusher (actually I thought they were saying Bumcrusher, but I’ll take IMDB’s word for it). We’re talking about those movie type of gangs where they are a bunch of long haired heavy metal dudes who don’t look tough at all but they figure if they wear a headband and a driving glove, and supposedly do alot of drugs, then that will make them hardcore. There are lots of bad getting high scenes and drinking beer scenes and evil cackling and threatening gum chewing. And every once in a while they remember that they want it to be THE WARRIORS or CLOCKWORK ORANGE so suddenly the guys will be wearing Halloween masks or codpieces or something. And there is always graffiti in the background that says things like “THE CITY IS SHIT.” (social commentary)

Deadbeat at DawnOh yeah and I should probaly mention there’s a scene where Goose practices his nunchucks in the cemetery and then when he’s done he looks out to the city and he yells, “YOU FUCKERS!”

He also has ninja stars.

Well despite all that, there is a definite appeal to this movie. I’ve never seen an action movie like this before. It’s just so grimy and sleazy, you feel like it’s gonna leave your DVD player smelling like a piss-drenched alley. It’s got porn shops and teenage runaways and many, many knife fights. It mostly takes place in dilapidated squats or rotting city blocks. In one scene Goose is going out and he tells his girlfriend he’s gonna lock the door. Then you see him put a padlock on the door.

The story is about Goose’s girlfriend gets upset because he’s always coming home cut up or something, so after some whining he agrees to quit the gang. Because of love. But next thing you know she asks a ouija board if she’s gonna die and it says yes, so some rival gang members break into the house and disembowel her.

Goose gets upset about this so he throws her body in the trash compactor and then goes to steal beer from his junkie dad. Later he’s gonna shoot himself but the gang convinces him to come back and then the same bastards who killed his girl keep fucking with him. So they rob an armoured car together and then kill each other.

It’s hard to take any of the dramatic crap seriously, but when it gets violent (which is alot) it’s pretty inspired. I liked the part where he whacked a guy on the head with nunchucks and stole his motorcycle. Or slid down a rope from a parking garage and threw a knife into an armored car guard’s head. The dude does some crazy stunts like jumping off a bridge or a freeway overpass, or hanging off a car or swinging on a chain. And it wouldn’t be that great in a normal movie but you can clearly see that this guy is really doing it, and he’s clearly not a trained professional. He’s not supposed to try this at home, but he still does.

And there’s alot of gore effects. Sewing up wounds, stabbing people in the eye, shooting people in the neck, beating heads against concrete. He gets his finger bit off and it sprays blood everywhere. So he literally tears the guy’s throat out with what’s left of his fingers. Then he tosses the guy off the overpass, a car hits him and his head tears off. That kind of stuff.

So yeah it’s corny and amateurish, but it’s so brutal and sleazy that it becomes kind of captivating. I’m not saying it’s great but at least it’s unusual. Give it credit for that.

No clue what the title means though, other than “I saw Evil Dead 2.”

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2004 at 4:07 pm and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Deadbeat at Dawn”

  1. The final climax in that one is the greatest “beat them silly with everything you got”-sequence of all time.
    At least in my opinion. :D
    The dude who plays Goose father is also in a league of his own. Great guy.
    Also i can´t recall any other movie in which someone puts his murdered girlfriend in a trash compactor instead of giving her a proper funeral (i suppose this should be seen as a romantic measure…)

  2. Man, I love this flick! That one punk’s monologue about how he doesn’t give a shit about anyone and that he’s the baddest motherfucker.. It’s pure gold. So glad others have seen this.

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