A short that fills its walls with more blood than some features, this chop-em-up gore-fest fits right alongside “Texas Chainsaw” or “Henry”.
A man offers a couple with car trouble a ride, but it will be their last trip. Let’s dig into 1994’s “Roadkill”, directed by Jim Van Bebber!
As I See It
This article may end up being longer than the script that was written for this short, but it deserves it. I may be speaking out of turn here, and I’m sure I get a slap on the wrist for only coming into Jim Van Bebber’s work now, but I’m discovering and falling in love with it all the same.
Deadbeat at Dawn has been on my queue for quite a while, and it just bumped itself up to the top of the list.
Van Bebber has a very simple approach to filmmaking: you’re making a horror film, shut the fuck up, and bring the horror. He’s not looking for an allegorical tale, layered with social commentary. He’s trying to make you squirm. He achieves that with Roadkill.
There is hardly an inch of the set left without blood spatter.
Faces nailed to the wall. Rats everywhere. A head hanging from the ceiling. It’s fifteen minutes of gross-out gore and torture. The doomed couple that hitched a ride catch the worst of it, as the man is dismembered and his girlfriend watches from a cage atop a stove — an element I didn’t realize until John Martin turned on the burner. Wicked, but a masterstroke of churn-your-stomach horror.
Alongside Roadkill on this DVD is My Sweet Satan, which is based on the story of Ricky Kasso. An impossible to avoid tale of terror where I come from that sparked nationwide panic and hysteria of both acid and Satanic cults. Ricky morbidly inspired tons of books, films, and even a Fear Factory song.
It’s impossible to watch Van Bebber’s work and not see the groundwork that was laid down for things like the faux trailer intermission of QT/RR’s Grindhouse, which ends up being far inferior to Trailer-only films he’s put out like Chunk Blower.
Jim Van Bebber is a criminally underrated filmmaker, and he has a claim for influence over a lot of “mainstream” horror we’ve seen over the past fifteen to twenty years. Welcome to the party.
Old school WWF wrestler Bad News Brown wins a match on TV though we can only hear the audio and Vince McMahon’s commentary.
Of Gratuitous Nature
There is no room for queasy stomachs here.
Van Bebber didn’t seem to give a shit about what anyone thought. He made what he felt would be the bloodiest and most entertaining thing possible, and for that, he was awarded very little in the way of financing. But he still got the love of gorehounds.
Ripe for a Remake
Van Bebber has said in interviews that he has a feature-length script for John Martin, and it’s a shame (if your stomach could handle it) it’s never been produced.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
There are DVD copies of Van Bebber’s films floating around, whether it’s the short double feature of Roadkill/My Sweet Satan or the compendium Visions of Hell. Track them down! You can also watch on Arrow’s streaming service (free trials are available) and can probably locate it elsewhere streaming online with a bit of searching.