XLrator Media // 2012 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // August 15th, 2013
If you get too close, it's too late for you.
I've never known a little kid who wasn't afraid of something in the dark, whether it's a monster in the closet or one under the bed. Often, the kid will get his parents to check and make sure the coast is clear before going to sleep. But what happens when you're not just afraid of the possibility, you know full well that a monster is down there ready to eat you at its first opportunity? That's the situation director Steven C. Miller (The Aggression Scale) presents the audience with in Under the Bed.
After his mother died in a fire that he started, Neal Hausman (Jonny Weston, John Dies at the End) went away to an asylum. Two years later, he returns home to find his dad remarried and his brother, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith, Green Lantern), now seeing the same monster under the bed that he once did. His dad thinks Neal is freaking out again and bringing his brother down with him. Dad has to rethink all that, though, when the monster comes out to play.
Miller continues to show a penchant for telling stories about troubled teens and he has shown improvement in his direction as his career goes forward. And while Under the Bed is a perfectly well-made movie, the story is misguided and doesn't work as a horror movie, so the whole thing winds up falling apart at the end.
Miller pretty clearly wanted to tell a family story with horror movie overtones. The kid, dealing with the grief over his mother and his own actions, come home to find everything the same. His dad doesn't understand him and is less interested in his problems than he is in maintaining a "normal" family. The stepmom, trying her best to fit in, is very nice, but because she has come into a situation she can't hope to understand, feels unappreciated and despised. The confused little brother who is now experiencing what made his brother crazy and trying to fight it while supporting his brother.
There doesn't have to be a monster here at all for any of that to work, but because he also wanted to have a horror movie and do it all in a digestible running time, none of the characters or their relationships have any time to develop. It keeps their struggles from mattering when it counts in the horror story's payoff, and also makes the monster angle feel tacked on.
The trouble with that, though, is that the horror is in no way scary and I don't think it could have been any different given more time to build suspense. The concept isn't immediately frightening; just a few drawings and some menacing shots of a dark hallway with a door at the end. It gets worse when we actually see the monster, which looks like the kind of mummy you'd find in a cheap haunted house. Then, in the end, Under the Bed takes an Insidious-style turn when they actually go under the bed. If that brilliant idea helped to ruin James Wan's otherwise excellent film, imagine what it does to something more marginal like this.
That said, there is some creepy atmosphere to be found at times, maybe not enough to make it memorable, but it's there. The performances from the two young leads are quite a bit better than expected and the movie runs along at a pretty good clip. It's not boring, but it's also not very effective, making it something most genre fans can probably skip.
Under the Bed receives a technically strong, bare bones DVD from XLRator. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is crisp and clear, with nice deep colors and fairly deep black levels. It's not going to blow you away, but it's about as good as you get from independent horror. The sound, though, is actually quite a good surround mix. It's clean and bright, with good clarity and definition between the dialog and music. The whole spectrum gets a workout and the low end really rumbles. The only extra is the film's trailer.
Under the Bed is a perfectly decent movie in every way except the most important one: it's not scary at all. Otherwise, the performances are good and Miller continues to show increased talent in his direction. It's a clean, efficient genre production that, unfortunately, has a confusing and mostly ridiculous story that keeps me from being able to recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: XLrator Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R