Death Bed: The Bed That Eats has been placed on the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies ever made. Please visit the official Certified Weird entry. Comments have been closed on this post.
DIRECTED BY: George Barry
FEATURING: Demene Hall, Rusty Russ, Julie Ritter, Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas
PLOT: Across four meal-themed segments, visitors to an abandoned house are eaten by the titular bed. Meanwhile, a former victim imprisoned behind a painting provides running commentary on the bed’s checkered past and strange habits.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: A horror movie about a killer bed? That’s kind of weird. But when it’s filled with nonstop voiceover relaying dense bed-related mythology, actors who are less energetic than a cast of mannequins, and incongruous Foley effects like the repeated sound of teeth crunching into an apple, then Death Bed has a definite shot at making the List.
COMMENTS: If it were anywhere near as risibly schlocky and straightforward as its title, Death Bed would probably be indistinguishable from the mass of movies about killer houses, animals, or furniture. But George Barry, the film’s writer, director, and producer (who, incidentally, never worked on another movie), had a unique vision, albeit an incomprehensible one. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether Death Bed is supposed to be low-budget horror, a pretentious art film, or some misbegotten hybrid of the two. It ranges in quality from bad to totally unwatchable, but it never goes the expected route.
The movie is about a killer bed, yes, but that bed has a very chatty British companion tucked away behind a nearby wall. Described only as “the artist,” he’s the ghost of a tuberculosis patient once consumed by the bed, and he narrates large chunks of the film, whether launching vicious tirades at the bed or jumping into jokey flashbacks about the bed’s exploits that stop the flimsy plot cold in its tracks. The artist also attempts to explain the bed’s convoluted origins—which involve a demon trapped in a tree and a young woman whose corpse has never decomposed—but these stories invariably raise more questions than they answer, especially when they’re invoked in order to bring about the film’s bloody, explosive resolution.
Death Bed‘s present-day narrative is split into four parts; the first, “Breakfast,” is unrelated to the rest, as a pair of lovers enjoy a romantic tryst on the bed (complete with champagne and a bucket of fried chicken), and are promptly eaten. The bed’s digestive activities are depicted through the absolute cheapest of special effects: bubbles rise up out of the bed, making it look as if it’s been loaded with too much laundry detergent, and objects or people disappear; they are then broken down inside a stomach resembling a vat of bubbly apple juice. The film’s other three segments (“Lunch,” “Dinner,” and “Just Desserts”) span across the rest of the film as three women—Diane, Sharon, and the introverted Suzan—visit the bed’s house and it attempts to eat them, one by one.
Their encounters with the bed are suffused with great weirdness. After delivering several whiny internal monologues, Suzan undresses in front of the bed while it moans lustily. It then uses her cross necklace to saw through her neck as she dreams about eating caterpillars. Diane escapes halfway through the bed’s meal, then has to crawl across the floor while screaming in pain, her legs bleeding profusely—a process that takes three full minutes. Sharon’s brother arrives and tries to stab the bed, but it skeletizes his hands, so he goes off to contemplate what’s left of them in the corner of the room, with his sister looking on: “There’s no flesh left,” he notes. “There’s hardly any blood… it’s almost like a surgical operation.” Even when Sharon ends up breaking his hands off at the wrist, the two of them remain so subdued they’re practically catatonic.
The film ends when the artist gets Sharon to do his bidding, enacting a complicated ritual to finally destroy the bed, which goes up in a burst of bad editing, confusing sound effects, and droning synth music. Death Bed is never really scary—its grisly death scenes are too slow-moving and laughable choreographed—while its few shots at intentional comedy or visual artistry fall totally flat (although in very bizarre ways). The end product is a hypnotically, bafflingly bad movie that feels like the unholy offspring of Antonioni and Herschell Gordon Lewis. But for every sequence of several minutes where nothing happens, the film provides a singularly weird moment, like a flashback scene where a leg brace lies at the foot of the bed while endless bubbles plop out onto the floor. The weird parts of Death Bed may not redeem it, but at least they make it unforgettable.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“How often does one get the chance to a see a movie that features a man-eating bed, the ghost of Audrey Beardsley, and a cinematic style that recalls underground films of the sixties by Kenneth Anger and James Broughton? Not often… quirky, dreamlike and truly unclassifiable…”–Jeff Stafford, Turner Classic Movies (DVD)