Jimmy VanBeeber Come Back to the Five and Dime

It was likely a basement party in Dayton (nitrous and blacklight, towels used as room dividers)-- one day way back in the early '90s -- that I first learned about James VanBebber. He was to film making in Dayton, what GBV was to timeless home-recorded indie pop anthems, 'cept not many knew about him even then. Every frame of VanBebber's work oozes with the gritty blue-collar/parking lot hesher romanticism seen in the city's seedier neighborhoods, or maybe even right downtown. And let's not forget the graveyards. Especially in his first feature, Deadbeat at Dawn, the ominous Woodland Cemetery (a hilly getaway for rowdy teens) serves as many a location. In the streets it's easy to spot the half-boarded porn marts and empty warehouse that still litter the hub of the Miami Valley (and seem to get worse). Driving past the Moraine Plant now is as eerie as it gets. But maybe there really is no romanticism in it? VanBebber's initial gang war is filled with abstract moments of nunchuck handiwork and very choreographed martial art brawls. Even when you laugh though, it's followed by displays that are all to real (and in the case of the short film Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin, too much to stomach). I'm amazed that you can view his '90s love letter My Sweet Satan (a real life story of Satanist teenagers in upstate New York) in complete on YouTube (warning, the end is more frightening than you might be able to handle).

This is only to serve as an introduction to VanBebber. I've yet to investigate the decade-in-the-making Mason Family movie, and can't find any of his other short films. He won't give (me) an interview, and appears to be in hiding while he whittles away at a low-budget, decade-in-the-making biopic on Al Capone. I will proceed despite my stomach. This is a purity that's tough to handle, even to the point where I can side with VanBebber when he claims the Grindhouse revival is shit, nowhere near the rough cuts of Deadbeat. His stuff is a 42nd Street orgy of gratuitous violence and damned behavior. In Portuguese he'd be called the Maldita.

Come back VanBebber, Dayton needs another ode on celluloid. Further discussions later.

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