Four twentysomethings find themselves stuck on a cursed antique bed where leaving means suffering a gruesome death. Plagued with frightening hallucinations, they must figure out the bed's secrets before they are ultimately picked off one by one.
When I first heard the title and skimmed the plot, I thought perhaps this was a loose remake of "Death Bed: The Bed That Eats", which has become something of a small cult classic thanks to the comedy routine that Patton Oswalt built around that strange little gem. I mean, if you think about it, how many movies can there possibly be about a killer bed? However, it turns out that the similarities are probably coincidental. (These days, not all clown films are "It" and not all shark films are "Jaws"
maybe we're seeing the beginning of a killer bed subgenre?)
Perhaps the most impressive thing about "Bed of the Dead" is the fact that the story is told with a straight face, and actually succeeds in pulling that off. Despite the bizarre premise, it actually maintains a sense of serious dread throughout. At no point does anyone break character and say, "A cursed bed? What the heck?" No matter what supernatural creature lurks in the next shadow, they just roll with the punches.
Unfortunately, the four young people trapped in the bed are more or less disposable, one-dimensional characters, so there isn't much to say about them. Sandy (played by Alysa King, SLASHER) gets the most screen time, but is never really a compelling character. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as slasher films have thrived on disposable teens for decades. The lead detective has more depth to him, enough so we can actually start to like or dislike him as his story unfolds. (Personally, his back story did not interest me much, but actor Colin Price is the lightning rod that holds the cast together, so it's great to see he has many upcoming projects in the works.) I also really liked the club owner quite a bit, but this is probably because he's one of those supporting roles that works best in small doses.
If any person or group working on "Bed of the Dead" deserves singling out, it would have to be the effects crew. The blood and gore is some of the finest ever shown, with one "shower scene" reminiscent of "Nightmare on Elm Street", only even more disturbing. There is a creepy spider creature that comes across as a hybrid of "The Exorcist" and "The Ring", and we even get an offhand comment referencing "The Shining". (To be clear, none of these references come off as "rip-offs", but cleverly tongue-in-cheek homages.)
Around the halfway mark, the plot introduces a twist involving a countdown that is quite clever, but also becomes the film's undoing in its failure to make sense. We are not given even a hint at an explanation and any attempt by the viewer to figure it out will only result in a headache. And why does the detective know so much? Somehow he is able to figure out how to anger the bed, as well as how to survive it. It's simply unthinkable that he would be able to deduce such things, especially in so short a time.
Don't get me wrong. There's no reason to believe this film was meant to be a deep, intellectual thriller and it would not be fair to criticize the creators for something they never intended. If the intent was a fun, fast-paced 80 minutes of blood and gore, they succeeded in spades. A sequel with another detective attempting to uncover the secrets of the bed would even be welcome (in some ways, the bed is not unlike the Lamentation Configuration in "Hellraiser"). This is a series I could really get behind.
"Bed of the Dead", from Black Fawn Films and writer-director Jeff Maher, premieres July 16 at the Fantasia Film Festival. Any fan of old-school (read: 1980s) horror would be wise to give this one a spin.