Thursday, April 22, 2010

Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (1977)

Deathbed: the Bed that Eats is a cult film even among cult films that probably owes at least some of its notice to a Patton Oswalt bit that can be found here. The film wasn’t even officially available until 2003, three decades after it was made, when the writer/director/producer discovered there was any interest at all in the film based on bootleg prints distributed in Europe. After disappearing from 1976 to 2003, Deathbed: the Bed that Eats was finally released to an adoring public.

The only thing more terrifying than the first time you watch a bed eat somebody is.... the next five times you watch that same thing.

The film opens with a black screen and loud chewing noises. We’re introduced to the titular bed, which appears to be just a bed, by way of an introduction from a ghostly narrator, an artist who painted the bed before being eaten and is now trapped in some weird limbo behind the painting’s wall. The artist complains about the bed’s snoring, in the process introducing the viewers to the painfully clunky dialogue which all non-beds in the film use to communicate. Basically, everyone talks in run-on sentences where each successive clause has more exposition. A young couple appears on the old house’s grounds, waking the bed, who locks successive doors until finally leading the couple to the basement where the bed lives. The couple has brought a bucket of chicken, an apple, and a bottle of wine, apparently planning a late night picnic at a stranger’s house, as was the style in the 1940’s. Note that nothing about the costumes indicate they are from anything but the early 1970’s.

Mmm, foam-y.

As an appetizer the bed eats the apple, the chicken and the wine. This is accomplished by yellow bubbles popping up around the food which then sinks into a yellow-filtered aquarium that apparently represents the evil bed’s stomach acid. Because every character in this film has some sort of psychotic disorder, even after noticing the food has all been eaten, the young man continues to make out with his girlfriend after casually noting that he must have “made a mistake” by bringing a bunch of empty food and an apple core on his night picnic. Unfortunately, it proves to be his last mistake as the bed predictably eats the couple and we finally get main titles.

Next we see a few minutes of stock footage and phony newspapers with the bed superimposed into the background of the frame: it is exactly as terrible as it sounds. Apaprently this is the bed’s dream? I don’t know. After increasingly outrageous dream headlines relating to the bed, we learn some of the bed’s history, specifically that it was used as a fertility cure, and even used as a card table by a couple of gangsters in the midst of hiding out. Unsurprisingly, all of these people were eventually eaten. A surprising number of strangers have sat on this evil bed. Despite apparently having telekinetic powers, the bed doesn’t seem to have any ability to make people want to sit on it, so you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with people. Once a bed eats one person, you’d think its free ride would be over since IT IS A BED AND CANNOT MOVE. Wouldn’t word spread that there is an evil bed that eats people? Wouldn’t such a rumor make the lovers’ from that first scene’s actions somewhat more sensible by explaining that they wanted the thrill of sleeping on a cursed bed rather than just wandering by? But what do I know?

What'sa matta with this crazy bed?

After another title card introduces “lunch,” three women, a black woman apparently in her 30’s and two girls in their late teens/early 20’s make their way to the house. The bed freaks out at the sight of one of the girls (according to the artist, anyway), then gets excited as Sharon, the spaciest of the three women changes in front of it before taking a nap. The bed causes her to have a weird dream about eating bugs while it dissolves her shirt. How weird is it that a bed is apparently aroused by a human girl? The bed eats the girls’ crucifix and tries to digest it, causing the chain to slowly saw at the girl’s neck. But instead of getting any pay-off from that, the bed just drops her into its aquarium-bowels, where the young actress is visibly holding her breath. A few moments later, she’s nothing but a skeleton and hair. Covering its tracks, the bed eats the girl’s luggage, too. The perfect crime! Fortunately for the Bed, Sharon brought some pepto bismol, easing the chronic heartburn the bed has suffered since it ate those greasy Italian mobsters years earlier.

Fact 1: Demons eyes are made of blood. Fact 2: they have pretty huge unibrows.

We eventually learn that the bed was created by a demon in a tree that, on a whim, transformed itself into a breeze and then, blowing past a human girl, turned himself into a man and also made a bed for them to have sex on. Whaaaaaaa? Anyway the relationship didn’t work out and some blood got on the bed, which the bed ate, giving it an appetite. Also Sharon, the girl that the bed freaked out around, has very similar eyes to the girl that “conceived” the bed, hence the bed’s apprehension about eating her.

When Diane and Suzan notice Sharon is missing, they split up: Suzan decides to go back to town while Diane will take a nap in case the weird girl happens to wander back. Predictably, this is about the very worst thing she could do. Diane has a weird dream where Sharon hands her a “book of dead people” which is at first blank pages, but then turns into aluminum foil pages! Oh my god it is almost a mirror! Diane wakes up as she starts sinking into the bed, and manages to very feebly get off the bed, her legs apparently useless since a coat of red paint is now on them. In the absolute worst scene of the film, Diane drags herself along the floor for at least five minutes in one continuous shot. The bed lets her get to the door than lassoes her with its prehensile drapes, finishing the job. You mean the bed could’ve eaten her at any time and it made us endure a five minute scene of the lady crawling and groaning? They should’ve called this Jerk Bed: the bed that is a jerk!

Little help?

Anyway I don’t want to spoil the ending and also the conclusion is so bizarre and poorly explained that I’d have to watch it again to be sure what exactly happens. Sharon’s brother shows up, and along with Sharon they try to deal with this evil bed. Things don’t go swimmingly.

Oh great, my hands are falling apart. My dog is going to have a field day.

Death Bed looks about as bad as you’d expect a no-budget horror film from the 70’s to look. Which is to say, unbelievably awful. Almost the entire film is shot on location on an island outside Detroit that was rented around this time by a motorcycle gang. 100% of the dialogue is calmly read in ADR: in some places, lines are added where characters clearly aren’t talking, which makes you wonder who else in this film besides the bed have telepathic powers. The costumes are laughable to the point of pretty much nonexistence, and the biggest special effect is watching stuff sink into a bed. This same effect is shown at least a dozen times, especially useful for people with short term memory loss that are unsure how, exactly, the bed eats.

There’s some fun to be had here, from the goofy concept to the ridiculous effects to the wooden performances, but Death Bed: the Bed that Eats is a film that is far funnier as an idea than an actual viewing experience. Even at a brief 80 minutes, Death Bed feels like a painful slog, in part because of its surreal nature, but also because the death-scenes, trapped by their premise, are visually dull and repetitive. Again, the Bed eats all these people only because they sat on it. Watching stupid people take naps on an evil bed stops being funny and then stops being interesting after the second death scene, and then it just keeps happening. It just gets hard to watch, especially because while the dialogue is awkward and full of expository run-ons, it is so few and far between that there are long stretches when there is nothing to laugh at since most people will have casually accepted that an evil bed that eats is no longer humorous. I’m not going to tell anyone interested in watching in Death Bed: the Bed that Eats People not to watch it, but if you’re not used to painfully slow-moving 70’s style B-movies, there’s a reasonable chance you might find the film unwatchable. Death Bed is the sort of acquired taste that you don’t want to show someone who isn’t committed to watching objectively horrible films for their camp value.

Arbitrary Rating System:

2 Demon Created Inanimate Objects out of 5

The Curious Case of the Fictitious Newspaper: here are the newspaper headlines as they appear. Can YOU find the hidden similarities?

Spider-Man: Hero or Menace?

Wow, those DCDS guys sure make the news a lot.

Mayor Demands Action over Completely Identical Newspapers!

And now, the thrilling conclusion:

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