Saturday, August 20, 2011

Roadkill (1994)

Not even a pittance of hope here

I first caught snippets of this one through a Necrophagia music video and didn't realize I had already seen another by director Jim Van Bebber just prior, which made me search out "Dead Beat at Dawn" and think the guy should have done more with the down, dirty and depraved talent he's got. This is along the lines of a really seedy version of "Eraserhead." The picture quality of "Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin" makes it seem much older than the '90s, though it still adds a certain washed out grime and includes an atmosphere that feels surreal with strange and abstract music. This 14 minute film is nothing short of a nightmare as there's no resolve, just pain and a kind of dehumanization that comes with chills and sweats when the credits roll.

Enter a dwelling that any "flip this house" money maker would save the investment and move on as it looks like one of the nastiest hellholes imaginable. Never mind how someone could feel so at home there. A homeless man in a third world country would even be put off with the trash, rats, nonsensical writing, blood and even human skin masks on the walls. If they could make a special smelling device for the cinematic experience, then I'm sure it would implode in on itself with this one. Though he miraculously has a shower and a razor to keep up a regular front on the outside. This is like a roller coaster, you anticipate the risk beforehand, live the danger when riding by building to a culmination, and then finally the experience ends but with a plethora of sensations rather than a narrative story to tell afterwards.

John Martin is a loner, a cemetery stroller, a raw animal muncher, a binge drinker, an excessive TV watcher and who could forget a maniacal cackler. The beginning setup shows you just how crazy and unlikable he is until he steps out of his depressive dwelling and puts on the nice guy act when he meets two unsuspecting people who need a lift after their car conks out in the middle of nowhere. It creates an unpreventable trap with predator and prey to account for, but not a hero in sight. Not to mention the audience has no way to stop it and is given no way out, so you look on just to witness how far he takes the depravity that includes some gore and unsensual nudity. Even in the survival-of-the-fittest animal kingdom certain species will have competition among themselves, though they'll still form pacts to hunt outside species. This, on the other hand, has one antisocial human using cunning manipulation on desperate human beings for a sadistic gain. It shows that you can't let your guard down for anyone, because people aren't always who they seem, and with some much more worse than others. Just as you'd see a lion interact and go out on a hunt in a documentary, this is essentially the before and after of how a psycopath named John Martin stalks. Except in a way that's as filthy and disgusting as you can imagine to get that insider's look without holding back.

What makes this effective as a short is it gets right to it, no prancing around, no letting up with the oppressive feeling, no explanations so as to keep up the mystery and morbid curiosity, just a candid look at the sadistic and detestable. The experience is essentially more about those sometimes unexplainable emotions, rather than a constructive story to follow. So as a longer piece it most likely wouldn't have worked as it might have desensitized or lost the focus of viewers, but as is it packs a severe punch to the lower gut.

Rating: 8/10

Director: Jim Van Bebber
Stars: Mark Gillespie, Marc Pitman, Maureen Allise
Link: IMDB

No comments:

Post a Comment