Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (Jim Van Bebber, 1994, USA)

Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin is a 1994 short by renegade Dayton, Ohio auteur Jim Van Bebber. The film opens with a man - presumably our title character - walking through a graveyard. After a brief journey through the city, we arrive at John's home. He seems to be preparing some delicacy with a possum, although John prefers to eat the meat raw. The inspiration for Tobe Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre is fully on display here. John has a bit of a meltdown - it is clear we are not dealing with the most stable individual. John is experiencing some kind of hallucinatory visions.

We then are treated to an extended period of John watching TV. He is not doing well, and everything on the TV seems to irritate him or drive him into crazy laughter. Up until now, we have experienced a disturbing and profoundly isolated existence, but there is not much else going on here. The set design, however, is one of Van Bebber's strengths - he always manages to create ugly and disturbing sets of the highest order.

The third segment of the film sees John leaving his apartment for the first time, and we can see where things are going to end up. A couple with car trouble takes up John and his offer for a ride against their better judgment, and the ending is as grisly as you'd expect. Roadkill lacks the inventiveness of My Sweet Satan and doesn't bring much new to the slasher genre beyond an exceptionally gritty style that Van Bebber had already established earlier on. Still, it is worth watching for Van Bebber completists. This was one of several shorts that Van Bebber made while trying to make his passion project about the Manson family (released in 2003).



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