Deadbeat At Dawn Review

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Goose, the gang leader of the Ravens quits the business at the behest of his girlfriend, who's terrified for his safety. Unfortunately, the leader of a rival gang refuses to let go, arranging a murder that causes Goose to declare war on his former friends and enemies.


This semi-professional gore movie from 1988 is unusual in that it eschews - aside for a few ominous touches with amulets, graveyards and Ouija boards - the Evil Dead horror movie trappings most common in this area of filmmaking and hangs its splattery set pieces on an urban gang/crime story that straggles between West Side Story and Reservoir Dogs.

Set in a dilapidated urban sprawl, the film follows Goose (Van Bebber), a gangleader who has been persuaded by his girlfriend (Murphy) to retire from the endless rounds of violence his position on the streets entails and take up a more sedate lifestyle as a major drugs supplier. In his absence, Goose's old faction, the Ravens, combines with an even more vicious but ambitious gang bringing more death on the streets. A former rival sends a pair of killers to finish Goose off, only to have them call at his house when he's busy making a dope deal somewhere else and take out their frustrations by abusing and disembowelling the girl. After a sojourn with his ranting, heroin-addicted father and a spell of down-and-out misery, Goose returns to the gang and takes part in an armoured car robbery, escaping during the frenzied crossfire, a mess of blood and histrionics.

Taking a cue from H.G. Lewis' She-Devils On Wheels, this trots out a gang war plot as an excuse for a succession of low-budget atrocities (heads crushed, eyes gouged, etc.). Achieving a species of downbeat intensity and grimness the jokey Lewis never aspired to, this locates Van Bebber - who has been trying to finish a movie about Charles Manson for over a decade - in the lowlife tradition of Abel Ferrara. But he doesn't have much to say beyond life-is-shit, and the variable acting and a lack of fresh character or plot turns are only intermittently redeemed by his enthusiasm for off-off-off-Hollywood grindhouse cinema.

If low-budget values and bloody gore are your thing, this has much to offer. But the downbeat tone and relentless violence will soon become wearing for everyone else.