Cult Epics // 1977 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 11th, 2014
The bed that eats.
What if I told you an obscure 1970s surrealist horror film about a malevolent bed filled with digestive juices filmed on the outskirts of Detroit wasn't unwatchable?
Deep in the recesses of an abandoned estate, a luxurious bed sits in the darkness. Pity the poor traveler who happens to wander in and take a load off. You see, the bed is demonic in nature, a malevolent creature that has a ravenous appetite for all organic matter, including flowers and hot dogs and ladies.
On the surface, a movie called Death Bed: The Bed that Eats sounds like it would be a primo slice of camp splatter. And that's what I was ready to roll with. Turns out, writer/director George Barry wanted to play this thing completely straight: and we are all better for it. Barry's film career would stop with this, but, really, if your cinematic legacy is made up solely of a movie about a man-eating bed, you have done more than enough for the human species.
The mechanism for the horror is as simple as it gets: bystanders splay themselves out on this weirdo bed in an old, grungy basement and then some bizarre synth music plays over and over, some yellow foam rises to the surface and the victims get sucked into the mattress. Cut to a full-screen video of yellow/orange fluid (Fanta perhaps?) and the eatees swimming around, getting all digested and whatnot. This sequence occurs every time someone gets it from the bed, which is frequently. Scenarios are varied too: the amorous couple; the thrill-seeking girlfriends; the orgy (thankfully hidden under the covers). All of them get dipped and dissolved.
But what makes Death Bed pop is the ridiculous amount of mythology Barry felt compelled to layer on his horror film. Make no mistake: this isn't a splatterfest (there is very little gore and what bloodshed there is either inadvertently ridiculous -- the poor sap walking around with skeleton hands -- or happening off-screen). No, Death Bed wishes to spin you a terror tale of a tragic love and a vengeful demon presence that not only eats its victims but has the power to imprison dead people behind paintings. There's also a young woman who holds the key to Death Bed's demise and causes it to hemorrhage internally (really).
Our narrator is one of the bed's victims, a consumption-riddled young artist who Death Bed psychically forced to live forever in a painting of -- you guessed it -- Death Bed. This poor sap is essentially an exposition machine, speaking in flowery prose and staring out of his painting-nook like a pathetic zoo animal.
This juxtaposition of wacko creature feature and legit attempt to elevate the material makes the entire experience akin to playing chess on a Tilt-A-Whirl; you're doing your best to look refined and cultured, but you're five seconds from puking on yourself.
That's a compliment by the way.
The Blu-ray from Cult Epics does it right, though the technical merits aren't terribly impressive. The full frame transfer has fleeting moments of clarity, but most of the time there's nothing that shouts high-definition. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 springs into action only when Death Bed emits its carnivorous audio cue; the rest of the time it's the tool in the painting talking out of your center channel. Extras: audio commentary from Barry and author Stephen Thrower; a 2003 intro from Barry and a 2013 intro from Thrower; a retrospective filmed in Detroit; the original credit track; and an awkward conversation between Thrower and Barry at a Denny's or something.
Death Bed is out of its gourd, but I couldn't look away.
Not guilty. Time to hit the sack!
Review content copyright © 2014 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cult Epics
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Credit Track