Bed of the Dead (which premiered to a packed house at Fantasia Fest last week) features the most malevolent piece of furniture since the one seen in George Barry’s unfairly derided surreal masterpiece, Death Bed: The Bed that Eats. (Behold, a new subgenre!)
Where Death Bed was rather indiscriminate, ingesting whomever was unlucky enough to lay on it, Bed of the Dead is a little more judicious. This sleeper determines whether its occupant will live or die based on events past. The virtuous just may leave to sleep another night while the guilty will be horrifically punished. In many respects, it’s the furniture version of John Ostrander’s incredible take on DC Comic’s The Spectre, the physical earthly embodiment of God’s vengeance who punishes the guilty in deliciously sadistic yet poetically just ways.
The good folks at Black Fawn Films have been on an absolute tear as of late. The highly successful, Chad Archibald directed Bite premiered at last year’s Fantasia Fest, and revealed itself as a new peak for the Guelph, Ontario based filmmaking collective. Bed of the Dead, co-written by Jeff Maher and Cody Calahan and directed by Maher, continues that upward trajectory.
The film begins at the end, so to speak, with cops investigating a fire which leveled the Anarchist Sex Club. One of the cops, Virgil (Colin Price), is a flask-guzzling, pill-popping veteran of the force who, along with his shield and firearm, carries a heck of a lot of emotional baggage too.
We learn via flashback that two couples checked into the club and we’re given Room 18, unaware that the room had previously been the site of both a murder and a suicide. Two couples, one bed: The Bed of the Dead. Any plans for a night of swinging and debauchery are quickly dashed when one of the quartet hallucinates his old dog, then is pulled under the bed and dispatched in a gloriously bloody setpiece.
It’s not long before the others realize that they’re trapped, both in the room and on the bed, and the bed bears a serious grudge to go along with its mattress and pillows. They manage to get the attention of a fellow patron of the club, hoping for some assistance, but he too is dispatched horrifically.
As the investigation into the fire continues, the two story arcs converge: Those who are trying to survive the bed and the cop who is trying to piece together the cause of the fire. To reveal how they intersect would be unfair, as the intertwining plots is but one of the many pleasures to be found in Room 18.
The performances are uniformly strong. Price is a standout, but it’s the formidable Alysa King (Berkshire County) who steals the show. The film boasts a striking visual palette, evocative set design, and outstanding grue effects rendered effectively and messily by the always excellent The Butcher Shop.
Black Fawn aren’t reinventing horror with Bed of the Dead. Instead, they’re continuing to create effective, gruesome genre offerings that give horror fans just what they want. Go ahead and test the box springs on this one: You won’t be disappointed.
***1/2 (out of 5)