You see that title? Yeah, Death Bed – The Bed That Eats. It’s a real thing that happened. A film about a bed, that eats people. Pretty bizarre plot idea huh? You wouldn’t forget that right? Except director George Barry pretty much did until about 25 years after its completion he saw someone reviewing a pirated copy of the film online and set about getting Death Bed a DVD release. So how exactly do you tell the story of what could be the least animated killer in horror film history? I just got done watching Death Bed and I’m still not sure…
I first became aware of Death Bed many moons ago when my interest in the video nasties débâcle of the early 80s was at a high. I lived through the tail end of that mess and it’s always been one of those events that made me wish to fight for films right to be shown as it should be, as the director intends. It even influenced a lot of my film tastes because if it wasn’t for films being banned I probably wouldn’t have wanted to see them as a kid. While the film was never outright banned it was one for the films pulled from video stores back in 1982. The UK was actually one of the few regions to even see a release of this film in any form at that time. It came and went with little notice paid. Obviously in the early 80s the idea of a bed eating people was pretty normal.
Just over a year ago, shortly before I started this site I saw the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (I later reviewed it. It’s review No.79). On the DVD release is a collection of the trailers for every film seized for examination by the police and whoever was on Mary Whitehouse’s side. This was where I first viewed the majesty that is Death Bed with my own eyes, albeit in a short trailer form. Some of you may be aware of the film via Patton Oswalt’s stand up routine about the pains of screenwriting. He wasn’t making this up. At some point in the 70s a man made a film about a bed that eats people… and fried chicken… and in one scene a bottle of Pepto Bismol. Yeah, that happens.
So let’s get onto the story. You’ll have to stay with me here cos it gets a bit odd. The film is narrated by a victim of the Death bed who lives behind a painting in the wall resurrected there, he believes, because when he was eaten he was dying of The Consumption. You know, that same thing that’s killing Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. As the film starts a couple sneak into the abandoned house that the Death bed resides within. They decide to use the bed for some sexy time. Unbeknownst to them the bed has just eating their apples, fried chicken and drank their wine. Before they can realise what has happen the bed has consumed them too. Obviously after the girl has got her baps out. As Cabin In The Woods taught us, we need to see boobs before the kill can happen. 10 years later 3 alleged teenagers arrive at what remains of the house, the Death Bed destroyed it in anger at it’s hunger, and they proceed to… sorta do not much. One of them upsets the bed’s stomach for some reason, hence the Pepto Bismol.
What follows this very long and quite ill conceived introduction to the characters is quite possible the longest hour of my life. This film is a slow moving beast. I know I’ve said before that I like a slower pace but this takes the cake. The film opens on a blank screen with the sound of some sort of chomping. This blank screen with it’s one repeated sound is held for a full minute. Some scenes meander on for minutes on end with no direction at all. On kill in particular is dragged out for about 5 minutes as the bed slowly tries to cut the sleeping girls throat open with a chain necklace she was wearing. Obviously after it’s taken her clothes off. Oh, and after its given her food related nightmares. You’d think having your throat cut open by a chain being pulled across it would wake you. That is if the chain actually did cut her throat. Instead it sort of mildly irritates her neck until eventually the bed just swallows her.
Whenever the bed eats anything we’re treated to a truly special effect. We see whatever it is eating floating in some sort of yellow bile. Occasionally there’s bubbles, not always. Sometimes blood too. I especially like the scene at the start when it returns the apple, chicken and wine to the bed after devouring them. The apple has been neatly bitten down to it’s core, the bucket of chicken has it’s lid put back on and the wine bottle has it’s cork placed back in its neck neatly. Pretty impressive for a bed with no hands. Unlike my bed which won’t stop tickling me. I lie… I cut my beds hands off with some piano wire… Every death is accompanied with the sound of the chomping of food, despite the bed having no teeth, and the fizzing of some sort of stomach acids. I guess the mattress is a stomach. I dunno, very little in my life makes sense anymore after watching this.
So you may be wondering just how a bed comes to have the ability to eat people. Why let me tell you. I should say that you may want to sit down first for this. So, a few hundred years ago there lived a demon that was in the form of a tree. One day on a whim it decided to become a breeze and went off on whatever you call the travelling of a breeze. As it blew along it passed through the hair of a young woman and instantly fell in love. In an attempt to seduce the young woman it conjured up a bed in the middle of the countryside and called out to the girl. When she arrived the demon too human form, all except his eyes of course because as we know demon eyes are blood red. Because they’re filled with blood. This seduction technique worked a treat for the demon, up until the point the girl died mid-shag. Apparently screwing a demon will kill you. Didn’t kill the girl in Urotsukidoji but whatever. The demon was upset by this and it’s eyes cracked and he cried tears of blood onto the bed sheets which seeped into it and made it an evil sentient being that craved the flesh of the living. And flies. It eats a fly at one point.
Still with me? That sequence comes about half way through the film after around 5-6 semi comical flashbacks to the bed’s previous meals as recounted by the man behind the wall. The semi comical tone of these scenes is part of what makes Death Bed such an odd film. It flip flops seemingly at random between being a horror, to a fairy tale to a bizarrely near farcical comedy. It really is one of the most confounding films I have ever seen. I can’t really call it a surrealist film, although it certainly has it’s moments. I can’t really call it a horror because at no point would anyone experience any sense of fear in its long, drawn out and quite absurd death scenes. The story of the demon certainly has fairy tale elements to it but it’s so out of left field that you just can’t fathom why that element even exists to begin with. I suppose at the very least you can say that the film almost comes across like a students odd art project. What it’s saying I have no idea. It certainly isn’t telling a cohesive story that’s for sure.
The pacing and plotting of this film is really really strange. As mentioned Death Bed is a very slow moving film. Oddly all that time it takes isn’t spent on creating anything resembling believable characters or even string the events together in a manner that makes any kind of sense. There’s scenes where character pop from one location to the next inbetween the edits. In one scene one of the women attempts to escape the Death beds grip after it starts eating her legs. What follows is about 2 minutes of a woman dragging herself along the floor towards a door at the other side of the room in one loooong shot with not a single edit. I’m not sure f this was meant to be for the purposes of making the scene look painful but it certainly made me feel some pain. Boredom pains. They exist right?
I should make mention of the films finale. SPOILERS!!! The demon that originally spawned this Death Bed falls asleep once every 10 years and when he does the bed loses it’s power. Luckily this happens just after the main girls brother arrives to rescue her and promptly gets his hands eaten. Which he takes quite calmly considering the amount of shock and pain you’d expect. When the bed is powerless the man behind the wall is able to communicate with the girl and tells her how to defeat the bed. Except for some reason he tells her how to make some sort of spell that will in fact kill her, which he doesn’t tell her until the last minute (jerk), and then the girl that had died centuries ago is resurrected. The bed appears where it was first created and then is promptly set on fire by magic of something. Seeing as the bed is flammable I have to ask, why not just tell the girl to set fire to the small building it is in thus burning the bed to the ground in the process? Maybe the fire was magic fire. Considering the bed is inanimate why didn’t she just run away? Maybe leaving a note saying “don’t sleep on this bed. Lumpy”. I dunno about you but I find beds aren’t very good at giving chase.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about this film other than it exists. At some point a group of people put money together to build the films props, to hire actors, and I use that term lightly. People edited the footage, sort of, and added a hell of a lot of ADR dialogue and narration in. I assume director George Barry was so strapped for cash to make this that he sold his surname and has since had to live his life with two first names. People made this film. That’s baffling enough. What’s more baffling is the film itself. I dunno if I would suggest watching this because it could easily be the slowest, most bizarre, 80 minutes of your lives. But at least one day when someone mentions hearing about this odd film about a bed that eats people you’ll be able to tell them you saw it. And depending on how much you hate them you can decide if you want to pass on your copy. That would be quite cruel thing to do though.