BR: Death Bed – The Bed That Eats (1977)

December 29, 2014 | By


DeathBed_BRFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Very Good

Label: Cult Epics

Region: A

Released:  June 3, 2014

Genre:  Horror

Synopsis: At the edge of an old estate lies a crumbling mansion with a demonic bed. When three pretty girls stop by for the night, their vacation turns into a linen nightmare.

Special Features: Audio commentary with director George Barry and “Nightmare USA” author Stephen Thrower / 2004 intro by George Barry (5:34) / 2014 intro by Stephen Thrower (4:01) / “Behind the Scenes of Death Bed in Detroit” (8:02) / “Nightmare USA” (15:03) / Original Main Titles and Music Track (2:03).





There have films about humans, animals, insects, houses, and even beaches ‘eating’ people, but never a four-poster bed that lures, comforts, teases, and slowly consumes matter organic (you) and inorganic (suitcases, jewelry, bibles) for its own hunger and morbid pleasure, but then George Barry’s killer bed film is no ordinary movie.

Sometimes confused with Deathbed (2002), a direct-to-video haunted bed, erotic shocker, Barry’s 1977 film is poetic fable that transcends the sometimes loopy narrative junctures, wobbly acting, minor gore, and lapses in technical continuity (the latter adding significantly to the film’s dreamy quality).

Given life and an appetite for the other white meat by the bloody tears of a demon-in-mourning, the death bed’s existence is no less purposeful than a Venus flytrap, forced to apply the virtues of its stationary self to attract, ensnare, and slowly digest, but unlike the visually hideous plant, the expansive (and nicely crafted) bed has a sense of humour, and can move objects by will or through its appendages (sheets). It self-cleans after each kill to ensure the next fool sees nothing peculiar, but one can argue only peculiar minds (hippies) would be comfortable spending the night in a perfectly preserved bed in a remote cabin’s cellar.

One of the bed’s earliest victims, a painter, is literally trapped in the wall behind one of his sketches, and Barry uses the thoughts of this mute to eloquently recall, criticize, and pontificate on the grievous events he’s seen for perhaps a hundred years. It’s only when the brother of one of the girls (Dead of Winter’s William Russ, billed as Rusty Russ) arrives does the bed realize it may have eaten one too many babes.

Because the bed was eventually banished to a nearby shed by its owners, Barry recreated the wide interior in an old photo studio, and part of the fun is the massive disparity between the expansive bedroom and what’s clearly a little stone garden shed.

The effects are sometimes quite clever – the use of a giant tank where objects and victims are digested or regurgitated is ingenious – and Death Bed really benefits from an evocative sound design and some primordial electronics.

For a film conceived from a dream and directed by a first-timer, Death Bed has great atmosphere, using an assortment of Michigan locations, including some exteriors of the striking, long-gone GarWood Mansion.

Shot between 1972-1974, Barry’s film was never released, but due to a bootleg made from his 16mm answer print, it appeared on video throughout the world before its author decided to give Death Beda legit (and formal) release in 2003. Cult Epics’ 2014 HD transfer brings out the rich grain and colours from the sometimes rough but never unwatchable only surviving print, and the commentary track with Barry and Nightmare USA  author Stephen Thrower is filled with production details fans of this surreal oddity have been waiting to hear for years, including some details on the locations and casting that was done out of Toronto.

(There is a sense Barry did elaborate more on GarWood, because just as the details start to flow, there’s some editing which realigns the discussion to other production details. The mansion, a unique footnote in Detroit architecture, industrial history, and music culture, was recently featured in a documentary Stonefront GarWood Years.)

Other extras include an intro by Barry from Cult Epics’ prior 2004 DVD, Thrower’s own intro, a technically crude tour of the disintegrating remains of the old photo studio, and “Nightmare USA” in which Barry discusses horror movies in a local diner. The video’s similarly crude, and the miking too close to the cameraman (you can hear him sipping a drinking and chomping on a salad at times), but its oddness kind of matches the film’s odd nature.

The last extra is the original film credits (which still run off the edge of the screen) with a jazz theme that really doesn’t work. Barry wisely chose Thrower’s own title music which is appropriately more eerie.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan; this review originally appeared in a shorter version in the August 2014 issue of Rue Morgue magazine.



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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