2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 19: Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Day 19: Beyond the Darkness: Watch one with a love story. There’s more than one way to get mushy! (But this also a “two-fer,” as it qualifies as an October “Slasher Month” entry!)

Once more unto the ’80s SOV breach, dear trash video friends, once more, we go — with a film that, for me, works as a homage to the violent n’ gritty, self-destructive characters of Abel Ferrara’s (The App) initial, “video nasty” one-two punch of The Driller Killer and Ms. 45. If you’re familiar with the Ferrara canons — even with his later, more commercial films, such as Fear City and Bad Lieutenant — you know his films are all about the faith and redemption of screwed-up people making do in a screwed-up world.

Watch the trailer.

So goes the life of Danny and Goose (Paul Harper and writer-director Jim Van Bebber) in a tale we’ve seen many times before: The leader of the Ravens wants out to create a better life for him and his girl — and after one, last job, he’s done (as in the recently reviewed The Good Things Devils Do). But once you’re in “the life,” you’re never out. So when the members of a rival gang kill his woman in spite of his wanting to leave the life, Goose is out for an over-the-top, video game-styled revenge (the love-gushy Scarecrow Video part!), full knowing that his bloody rage (that will remind the underground SOV connoisseur of Buddy Giovinazzo’s 1984 debut Combat Shock) will, most likely, leave him dead by dawn. (Don’t believe me? The dudes at the Sleazoids Podcast You Tube paired Combat Shock and Deadbeat at Dawn into one review-show.)

Now, you may have seen that described tale before . . . but not one that’s directed by Jim Van Bebber, baby. His outlandish scripting is supported by kinetic camera work capturing some of the most over the top, slasher-inspired splatter (it’s “Slasher Month” all this month B&S!) that rivals the worst (or best?) of the Italian cannibal genre-boom of the ’70s and ’80s. Seriously. That’s it. That’s the plot. A simple set up giving reason for Goose to set out on revenge — and Goose cutting an ultra-violent swath across the city without reason — well, actually, “for love,” right? This shite that goes down . . . dude, Patrick Swayze would shite his pants in the Road House* that Brad Wesley built. If Road House was made in the grindhouse ’70s — and slapped with an “X,” it would be Deadbeat at Dawn.

So, how did we come to review this SOV classic from Jim Van Bebber? (Yes, it was shot on 16mm, but it’s all about the “vibe” of it all; I lump Don Dohler into the SOV-doms — even though he shot on 16mm and blew ’em to 35. There’d be no SOV ’80s* without Don’s pre-video store, drive-era influences.) Well, first off, I went down an SOV rabbit hole with a review of Curse of the Blue Lights, Jugular Wine, and Tainted for “Vampire Week” and Snuff Kill and Dead Girls for our month-long slasher-horror blow out for October. (Nope, we didn’t forget Blood Cult and Spine, already reviewed ’em!) Then, there’s my upcoming October review for the (not really starring) John Doe flick, 1997’s Black Circle Boys.

Now, if you know that Satanic-not-so-metal flick, you know that it’s based on inspired by the murderous, 1984 exploits of Ricky Kasso (which also, in part, fueled the scripting of 1986’s River’s Edge; a “Psychotronic Month” review is on the way later this month!). And that, in conjunction with one’s Van Bebber fandom, knows that, for his second film, he wrote, directed, and starred in one of the most unforgettable short films of all time, My Sweet Satan (1994). His loose take on David St. Clair’s 1987 expose Say You Love Satan, it tells the story of 17-year-old Ricky Kasso (Van Bebber) and the murderous exploits of the Knights of the Black Circle, which resulted in the sacrifice-death of his friend, Gary Lauwers.

Since released on DVDs available at Amazon.

Oh, and there’s the Rocktober Blood part of the equation. . . .

It’s just another one of those analog-celluloid alignment of the stars at B&S About Movies that makes all the overworked and underpaid writing worthwhile. So we noticed an unusual uptick in views for, not only for our second Rocktober Blood review-take (written in tribute to the death of Nigel Benjamin), but for our investigation of the lost sequel, Rocktober Blood 2: Billy’s Revenge, as part of our “Box Office Failures” week of reviews.

So we hit Google and Bing. Something’s up with Rocktober Blood. Why all of this sudden flurry of hits? Did Paul Zamerelli, over at the Analog Archivist on You Tube, discover something new about the film? Nope. It turns out Petar Gagic over at The Cine-Masochist on You Tube churned up the blood pool on the “No False Metal Classic” (check out our “No False Metal Week” of reviews) with an affectionate, August 14, 2020, review of Rocktober Blood.

Of course, Petar’s brain works like Paul’s, which works like Sam’s, which works like Bill Van Ryn’s, and works like mine’s: the movies just start bleeding together. So, after mentioning the controversy over the failed production of Rocktober Blood 2, Petar’s review logically dovetailed into the controversy between Synapse and Jim Van Bebber regarding the DVD reissue of Deadbeat by Dawn.

Now, if you know your underground SOV cinema, you know all about the infamous Van Bebber voice mails. And you know that the You Tube upload of those calls has long since vanished. But thee ye analog overloads inspired Petar to make a copy — which he included on the tail end (stars at 12:15, for those of you that never heard it) of his Rocktober Blood review. So, it seems, Petar inspired the denizens of the video fringe to Google n’ Bing “Rocktober Blood” once more — 35-plus years later — and they ended up at B&S About Movies.

And, with that final nail in the coffin, so to speak, the spirits from the netherworld spoke: “Ye must write a review of Deadbeat by Dawn, for it has been foretold. If ye doeth not, Jim Van Bebber will kick thou ass and leave not ye a skin cell or corpuscle to be found.”

So, hey, I do not fuck around with the netherworlds, as I have enough problems in my life. So I ye do as they commandeth. For it has been told that for every person that doeth heard of Deadbeat by Dawn, there is the one that hath not. And ye all must bow to the SOV majesty that is the work of Jim Van Bebber.

Amen. I’ve love fucking writing fucking film reviews for this fucking site!

How deep is the fandom for this film? Fans have cut music videos backed with their favorite tunes: Vegaton w/Autopsy, Suzipeach w/Helstar, theangryemonerd w/Reversal of Man, and RueMorgueDweller w/Exodus. Then there’s the clips of fan’s favorite scenes, such as the beloved “Bonecrusher,” the (epic!) “Cemetary Battle,” “Robbery (“Give me your gun, Grandma!),” “Stealing a Motorcycle,” and the fan-cut trailers. And, of course, Petar at The Cine-Masochist did his own review of the film that’s worth the ten minutes of your life.

You can stream Deadbeat at Dawn on You Tube. True Van Bebber fans can watch the film — along with his shorts My Sweet Satan, Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin, Doper, Kata, Into the Black — in a convenient, one-stop streaming package from Shudder through Amazon Prime. It’s a well-shot, imaginative, over the top movie. Put it on your short list of films that you must watch before making your final, mightily stomps on the terra firma. Or Van Bebber will kick thou ass into oblivion.

Even truer Bebber fans — and aren’t we all — can check out this 2003 Shock Movie Massacre Interview with, wait, is that Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet? Nope, that’s Jim!

* Be sure to check out our four-part interview with Road House director Rowdy Herrington. And be sure to check out our reviews of River’s Edge and Black Circle Boys for our deep dive into the life of the sick f*ck that brought us here: Ricky Kasso. And we’ve recently reviewed the Kasso documentary, The Acid King.

* Click through our SOV tag to read our ever-growing list of reviews regarding shot-on-video films from their ’80s VHS-birth to the digital and phone-shot brethren of today.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.