Fantasia Film Festival: BED OF THE DEAD (2016)

Bed of the Dead.jpg

Studio:       Black Fawn Films
Director:    Jeff Maher
Writer:       Jeff Maher, Cody Calahan
Producer:  Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan, Christopher Giroux, Jeff Maher
Stars:     Colin Price, Alysa King, Gwenlyn Cumyn, Dennis Andre, George Krissa, Hamza Fouad, Alex Loubert

Review Score:


Four friends find themselves trapped on a cursed bed that haunts them with horrifying hallucinations.


Fantasia Film Festival Review:

In offering thoughts related to why curses in fiction are better left unexplained, “Oculus” director Mike Flanagan once wrote regarding his haunted mirror that, “…no matter what we said, it would not be satisfying. ‘The mirror frame was carved from a tree where they hung witches,’ ‘the glass was made from sand from a beach where the devil played volleyball’ – there simply isn’t an answer to the question ‘where does evil come from’ that isn’t, frankly, stupid.”

“Bed of the Dead” opens on a scene straight out of Mike Flanagan’s mouth.  Four robed druids of some sort, one of whom holds a book of occult mumbo jumbo, tie a man to a tree and viciously stab him to death.  Some unspecified amount of time later, an unknown man chops down that tree and from the wood carves a headboard that somehow ends up haunting a bed frame.

Roll eyes or sigh at seeing this is the start of the story and the film has already lost you.  Though if your mouth curls with the guffawing grin of a mind open to unusual entertainment, “Bed of the Dead” brings exactly the sort of offbeat eeriness anyone would expect of something with such a title.

A cursed bed only makes as much sense as it has to.  I wouldn’t spend a single minute arguing against anyone deigning to lump its origin into Flanagan’s accurate definition of horror movie “stupid,” yet I suspect, director Jeff Maher might not either.  In this anomalous case, “Bed of the Dead” rightfully has no reason to care about breaking any rules of realism.

“Bed of the Dead” is the kind of idea usually birthed by a brainstorming session populated by more laughter and beer than genuine inspiration and better sense.  But by treating its silly premise seriously, and by having capable resources to present the production with a measure of sincerity, “Bed of the Dead” finds its way past the easy way out of comic campiness to muster merit for midnight movie cult status.

The film doesn’t waste time ramping up.  It goes for gruesomeness from the gate with parallel timelines telling the present tale of a down and out detective investigating a sex club’s haunted bedroom while the past shows the story of Sandy, Ren, Nancy, and Fred.  For these friends, a half-hearted foursome turns fearsome when they discover they cannot escape from the bed without being paranormally, and painfully, butchered to death.

After one of their own perishes in a gory gush of blood, the group immediately buys into their unbelievable scenario.  Instead of meaninglessly shouting, “what is happening?” at the first sign of inexplicable activity, someone simply says, “we’re in big f*cking trouble.”  By not stopping to indulge in typical supernatural slasher tropes of slow setups moving characters to where the audience already is, viewers aren’t afforded immediate opportunities to stop and consider how outrageous everything is.  It’s either get onboard or get left behind, and one of those destinations is a far more fun place to be than the other.

There’s nothing innovative about an alcoholic cop grieving a dead daughter or obnoxious twentysomethings looking to party on a city’s seedier side.  “Bed of the Dead” intentionally employs elements like these stereotypes however, since it is standard practice for its EC Comics and vintage VHS tone.  Even with facades of familiarity to flat personalities, characters still squeeze out a few clever quips to put a little lightness into the heavy carnage of blood waterfalls, broken bones, and exploding internal organs.

“Bed of the Dead” lets on that it has more minutes in its runtime than gas in its idea tank during a sleepy midsection of inconsequential flashbacks and dream sequences fleshing out backstories that barely matter.  Several of these scenes could burn away entirely without the film suffering a consequence other than being under an hour in length.  This lull is distracting, though not a dealbreaker, and the third act recovers before spreading the plot additionally thin.

“Bed of the Dead” evokes the appeal of 1980s horror without resorting to trendy retro tricks like an overdone synth score or feathered hairstyles hammering home the notion that it fully understands what it wants to be.  The film trusts you to recognize its throwback type of terror without knowingly winking or screaming for attention through overinflated irony.  Appreciate the straightforward style of a wildly weird premise with slick scares, and you might not need a curse to become locked inside “Bed of the Dead.”

Review Score:  75