When I first heard about BED OF THE DEAD I was immediately interested. Looking at the very EVIL DEAD-esque poster, I felt like I was a 9 year old little boy again, standing in the forbidden zone of the video rental store: the horror section. With memories of being surrounded by hundreds of mesmerizing VHS covers, I jumped at the opportunity to review the film as soon as I had the chance.
BED OF THE DEAD, at first glance, appears to be another tongue-in-cheek horror comedy in the same vein as perhaps BAD MILO, ZOMBEAVERS or the like, but this is a good time to heed mother’s advice and never judge a book by it’s cover. Director Jeff Mahner takes us in quite a different direction as he attempts to build a mythology and inject plot and substance over blood and guts into what many would expect to be a simple B-rated creature feature.
The film’s opening sequence, which takes place a century ago, showcases Maher’s background as a cinematographer (BITE, ANTISOCIAL), detailing the execution of a man whose crimes we know nothing of. In a nutshell, he’s taken to the ‘ol hanging’ tree and given a good shove. At some later time, the wood of the tree is used to create the titular, beautiful and intricate monstrosity of a bed with the sinister tree carved masterfully into it’s gargantuan head board. We are now taken to modern times; the bed is now in a sex club in an undisclosed city, and a group of wild youngins are about to discover the sinister truth about the bed they’ve rented to have a birthday orgy on.
For the most part, the film takes place entirely in one room: the closed-off room of the sex club in which our group of victims have paid a hefty fee to be let into for the night. We are seeing two stories, that of the troubled detective who winds up at the club after a fire breaks out and four corpses are discovered inside, and the events that lead up to the fire and deaths of the four young adults. We learn that the bed does not merely “eat” whoever is silly enough to snuggle up under its tasteful covers, it judges you and uses your “ghosts of Christmas past” to bring about your bloody demise.
I have to give it to Maher for the ambition he showed with this film. In what is perhaps his largest directorial undertaking yet, he takes a film with a title that many would simply gloss over while scanning Netflix and takes it somewhere unexpected and darker than you’d ever imagine. Equal parts crime drama, mystery film and horror, it tells a story that will keep your interest piqued until the credits roll. Much like the film’s opening sequence, there are many moments where his background as a cinematographer show through. Solid framing and a formidable original score bring this film together in a neat and tidy package that make it a visual pleasure to watch.
I do, however, think that the film fell short in a couple different departments. Coming in at a mere 80 minutes, I feel that the film suffered due to the shortened length. Had an extra 15 to 20 minutes been added to the run time, certain elements could have been explored further which would have given the film greater depth and left less questions in my mind. It could be the writing or it could be due to the editing bay, but I was left feeling like the film as a whole was a tad half-baked, mainly the mythology of the bed itself. I would have loved more explanation as to the origins of the bed, and where it’s mysterious power comes from. We are simply shown that a man was hung from it’s branches. In addition to the lackluster backstory of the bed, I felt little to no connection with the victims, not really caring whether they lived or died. It seemed like the characters themselves could care less that their friends and lovers were being picked off and dying in horrible and grotesque ways. Not to mention one of my biggest questions: how the hell did this bed end up in a seedy ass sex club to begin with? Perhaps this film just took itself a tiny bit too seriously. Give us a silly B-rate film about a bed killing horny teenagers and I could care less about origin stories or character development, but they were clearly attempting to create something more than that.
All in all, BED OF THE DEAD offers something different and I have to respect that. While it didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations, it didn’t bomb either. I can see this film being very successful with the right demographic, if you enjoyed OCULUS, you’ll probably enjoy a night with BED OF THE DEAD, just don’t expect Mike Flanagan’s beautiful sense of suspense or character development.