Monday, June 16, 2014

REVIEW: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats - Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!

What the fuck am I watching? When I say this it means either I’ve stumbled upon genuine crapola. Something I should not be putting into my eyeballs. A mess of nothing that is boring and is devoid of thought or substance or merit. If there was a warning lael it would read like the back of a Slim Jim wrapper…. OR I am watching brilliant cinema. I am watching a movie that is challenging even though I now that its budget is small; though I know that it would be considered trash cinema to others. Death Bed as released by Cult Epics is clearly one of these two, and without a doubt it is pure, strange bliss on the eyeballs. While I had not previously heard of this picture, the simple fact that Stephen Thrower, writer of Nightmare USA, gives one of the introductions is enough to get my retinas on it. So I say what the fuck am I watching? And I answer a work that is beyond the supernatural strange narrative horror tale it pretends to be. It is a visually pleasing, hungry work that makes you wonder what lies beneath the bed sheets at night rather than what is under your bed.

Synopsis from Cult Epics:

Prepare yourselves! The strangest bedtime story ever told! Cult Epics brings you Death Bed, George Barry's uniquely weird journey through a world of wind demons, carnivorous furnishings and the spirit of Aubrey Beardsley! At the edge of a grand estate, near a crumbling old mansion lies a strange stone building with just a single room. In the room there lies a bed. Born of demonic power, the bed seeks the flesh, blood and life essence of unwary travellers... Three pretty girls on vacation, searching for a place to spend the night. Instead, they stumble into nightmares - and the cruel insatiable hunger of the Bed! Death Bed is a one-of-a-kind experience: comic, horrific and dreamlike, that truly has to be seen to be believed. Discover this neglected marvel of American horror for yourself!

For a movie that came out of relative obscurity there’s sure a lot to offer the first time viewer in the way of introductory material. From the audio commentary provided by director George Barry and Stephen Thrower to introductions provided by the two same individuals, you get a rounded view of what you are watching, what is to come and how to piece it into the landscape of your horrorverse. It isn’t immediately obvious mind you. Death Bed comes off as a strange amalgam of a haunted house movie and Monty Python sketch. There are voiceovers that leave you laughing at times and others slightly spooked. A killer bed? That’s scare? How is a bed scary? It doesn’t reach up and bite you with jaws filled with teeth? Nope. It dissolves you, the scenes of which come off like student art movies straight out of NYU. The disc includes a Behind-the-Scenes feature in Detroit filmed in 2013 which takes you to some of the locales which are haunting in a completely different way to this day.

Death Bed is not a conventional tale of horror, and its budget does show at times, but that is part of its charm. It is a movie that feels distinctly like the haunted house version of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. Low production value, but excellent visual presence and almost disturbing in its minimalist feel.

Also included on this disc is a discussion between George Barry and Stephen Thrower concerning the horror movies of the 70’s and 80’s which proves to be good fun. For those of you who have had the pleasure of reading Nightmare USA, you know that Thrower treats his audience with a wealth of knowledge and context. In addition the original Death Bed music from the credit track is included.

The film looks great and grainy and gorgeous even though the stock probably saw better years. It adds to the charm. You don’t get a heft of DNR that would destroy an otherwise perfect grindhouse-style feature movie. Note: 1.33:1 with DTS HD Master Audio 5.1/2.0 (though it certainly wasn’t recorded in 5.1).

Some folks are going to watch this movie and see it as an opportunity to riff on it’s moments of humor and budget. Others will probably think that it doesn’t appeal; failing to provide a power pop of monster effects in the form of a bed that savages unsuspecting victims. For me, it’s a movie more subtle. It requires a relaxed mind that can appreciate horror entertainment and camp combined with strange surreal lysergic images of melting and dissolving. One recommendation I would offer is to have an avant-garde rock band play while Death Bed screens in the background. The other is to watch with a well rested mind. Death Bed is quiet at times and it the pace can meander rather than run to the finish. Fans of 70’s horror should be eager to pick this one up.

If you want to know why this film gets my ringing endorsement then let me tell you this. I watched Death Bed late in the evening. I enjoyed it but it sort of got under my skin. It slowly worked its way into the back of mind. I felt unnerved. Why? I mean it was sort of funny right? The extras features I enjoyed afterward should have sobered me to the fiction that had just been on screen, and yet when I went into my bedroom, putting my head on the pillow as I do every night, I half expected the narrators/bed’s voice to begin a discussion. Just after that I expected to find my wife missing, dissolved and then myself to begin dissolving in turn.

Enjoy the strange grasp of skeletal hands right before you go to bed at night, as your bed considers you a midnight snack.

Release notes:

Bonus Features: New HD Transfer, Introduction By Stephen Thrower, Introduction by George Barry, Audio commentary by George Barry and Stephen Thrower, Conversation between George Barry and Stephen Thrower on horror films of the 1970s & 1980s, Behind the Scenes of Death Bed in Detroit (2013), Original Death Bed Music credit track (1977)

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