Death Bed — The Bed That Eats (1977)
What’s It About: Oh Boy! Look at what I found. Yes, a horror film that sounds like a spoof, looks like a spoof feels like a spoof but is actually a serious attempt to make a bed a killer. One and only time writer/director/producer George Barry has made a horror film like no other. I half-expected to either fall asleep (irony?) to this ridiculous premise or hate it so much that I would never finish it. Turns out it is quite unique and not-so-badly produced that I ended up not only having such an urge to write this review but may have actually liked it.
The film starts out with the introduction of a painting. A painting of a bed in fact. In an old mansion in a creepy gray-bricked room with just a huge canopy bed. Our narrator to this epic film is in the painting. Literally in the painting, doomed to eternity trapped inside and could see out to the room and could hear Death Bed snore. The bed is alive after all. Now enter our first victims who have come to the mansion with the intent to do two things—screw and eat some fried chicken. The girl is hesitant and creeped out, rightfully so since her date has brought her to some dank, dark mansion in the middle of nowhere to get in her pants and feed her a bucket of chicken with some wine and apples. While the make out on some strange bed, one of the apples gets engulfed by some yellowish foam coming out from the bed. We then see the apple sink into the bed and start to get eaten. (Whenever we see something get eaten by Death Bed, its a medium shot of what’s supposed to be the inside of the mattress which is a dark yellow color. The food or body part within looks like its being eaten or disintegrated by an acid.) The apple the floats back up to the surface and is basically just a core. Next is the bottle of wine and a few chicken pieces, all appetizers to the main course for this carnivorous bed. Just as the guy is reaching second base with his girlfriend, the bed’s canopy curtains close on them and we hear their screams of dread.
We then see stock footage from what looks to be New York City in the 1920s with the clichéd newspaper spins showing headlines highlighting Death Bed’s murderous misdeeds through the century or so. I cannot tell because all the newspapers are the same with the “new” headlines taped on the old paper each time. Headlines like “Thousands Disappear!” “Strange Munching Sounds Heard in the Night.” “Mayor Demands Action!” “Mayor Disappers!” All Pulitzer gold. So I’m assuming this bed is very old and has been in the city before it settled down in the country. The Narrator taunts Death Bed saying its Death Bed’s own fault for being stuck without a decent food supply in the cellar of the run-down mansion. Its also implied that Death Bed is very powerful (save for the power of motion) and has a telekinetic link to the house, even though its not inside the house. We are then shown images of the statues outside with blood coming out of the eyes. You can ask me WHY?! all you want but I just don’t have a clue.
Enter our next victims driving to the house. Two friends (Diane & Sharon) and a co-worker (Suzan), who feels bad because she invited herself and wants to go back home. Suzan’s incredibly shy and stand-offish and decides to sleep now in the afternoon because she doesn’t sleep well at night. Also, the Narrator notices that Death Bed is scared of Sharon but doesn’t know why. So Suzan goes to bed…in this cellar with nothing but a huge ominous bed and a fireplace in the middle of the afternoon. Well, the film is only 77 minutes long and there’s no time to waste waiting for nightfall for these victims right?
We then meet Sharon’s brother (played by William Russ, the father from Boy Meets World!) being told by some unnamed, off-camera elderly woman that he has to find Sharon. He reluctantly agrees. I reluctantly watch on.
Meanwhile, Suzan is sleeping and the Narrator notices that the bed is giving her nightmares, another power Death Bed has. The nightmare is basically Suzan being forced to eat a bowl of green slime and bugs, you’re typical bad dream. It then pulls off the covers and then rips off her clothes. It then swallows her crucifix necklace and more or less garrotes her with the chain and then dragging her down into its belly for feeding. Shortly after the meal, the door to the cellar opens and a few red roses appear not far from the cellar and then we see Suzan’s skull underneath the flowers. Hey! I didn’t say this movie made sense did I?! Diane and Sharon return from where-ever they disappeared to and have a picnic. Sharon looked for Suzan but there was no sign of her. As the girls are having a picnic, we see Death Bed somehow down a bottle of Pepto Bismal for the indigestion it has for eating Suzan’s suitcase.
The Narrator then starts a montage of some of the notable past victims of the Bed. The Narrator also says that whenever Death Bed devours someone he gives the Narrator the victims jewelry and rings as gifts. So even though the Narrator is also a past victim, the Bed has some sort of bond with him. So we meet some of the past victims, first being a priest, who was lying in the bed reading the bible wearing his priest outfit. Did I mention he was a priest? The next is a large elderly woman reading a pornographic newspaper. We then see a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer being eaten by Death Bed. Is this supposed to convey that some victims were masturbating while lying on the bed? Do we really need that detail in this film? The we see a teddy bear and then for some strange reason a servant girl with leg braces being eaten. I’m thinking this was the director’s relative and he added her in there because why not? Then we meet a doctor and his lady friend who rented the estate and claimed the bed was a source of sexual rejuvenation for their impotent clients. The doctor tries to spruce up clientele by hyping up the bed’s appeal by making up some hokey lie about the bed’s power from the sun and moves the bed outside. He also rigs it with electricity for some reason, I guess like a vibrator. I really don’t know. Anyway, an orgy all gets killed one afternoon in a smorgasbord of blood! The Narrator then says that the new owner of the estate then put Death Bed in the cellar, in case you were wondering how it got there. Then most hysterically in the next scene we meet the next two victims, gangsters hiding out, on the bed, playing cards. The one gangster with the best handlebar moustache I ever seen hears a noise and puts down his cards on the bed. When he picks them up again the cards have writing on them—HA HA YOU ARE DEAD. Then the Narrator tells of his own death at the hands of Death Bed. He was a dying artist who painted his own death bed and when he was eaten his soul was then trapped into his painting.
The Narrator then goes on to tell the story of the origin of Death Bed. There once was a demon who turned himself into a breeze that happened upon a young girl and fell in love with her. He took human form and then created the bed to seduce her with. Then tragically because of the unholy union between human girl and demon man, she died. Saddened by her death the demon bled tears that fell on the bed and he took the form of a tree. The tears on the bed somehow sprang evil life into Death Bed. The Narrator then surmises that the eyes of the girl are the same as Sharon’s and thats why Death Bed is uneasy with Sharon.
Meanwhile, Diane and Sharon are still looking for Suzan. Sharon takes the car to look on the road while Diane goes back to the cellar. There she relaxes on Death Bed and it gives her a nightmare where Diane talks with Suzan and Suzan shows her a book of dead people and tries to convince Diane that she’s in the book. Again, typical nightmare stuff. Diane wakes up and tries to get off the bead before he legs get munched on. I’m assuming they’re getting bit because there’s blood on her jeans but the jeans are not ripped or torn. Anyway she manages to free herself from Death Bed’s grip and slowly (and I mean slowly) crawls out of the cellar. Takes about 3 minutes of screen time watching her drag herself from the bed to the other side of the room and up a small flight of stairs and opening the door, all while moaning and groaning in pain. Then as she’s about to get outside, Death Bed grabs her leg with his sheets and drags her back!! So why did I just watch 3 plus minutes of her terribly acting in pain crawling across the floor when Death Bed could’ve grabbed her at any time? What was he doing?! Sharon tries to come to her rescue but fails.
Sharon’s brother drives to the estate and finds her sulking in the cellar room. She’s in shock and can’t explain to him what’s going on but they cannot leave because Death Bed has locked them in the cellar. The brother finds a large knife in Diane’s picnic basket and decides to stab Death Bed. Big mistake as Death Bed starts to pull the brother’s hands into the mattress. Death Bed dissolves the brother’s hands to the bone. Literally and comically his hands are skeletons. The brother does not die nor scream for his life when he pulls out his hands. He then sits with Sharon and quietly ponders that how his hands’ flesh are so cleanly dissolved away. Its at this point that I ceased to be amazed and confused at this film and started to love it. He then instructs Sharon to just pull off his brittle skeleton hands because the cartilage is drying up and his fingers are starting to fall off anyway.
The Narrator tells us that the demon is now asleep and that he can communicate from beyond the painting. He instructs Sharon how to defeat Death Bed by making some crude circles with blood around the bed and also joining her brother’s bones with another friend’s hair. Then the circle ignites on fire and the Narrator tells Sharon that he lied to her and that she will die anyway to give life to the woman who the demon fell in love with years ago. Sharon dies and the girl is resurrected and then Death Bed ignites on fire and the demon is destroyed.
Is It Actually Scary: Its about a killer bed that eats people who sleep or make love on it. Psycho made us fear the shower. Jaws made the ocean hard to swim in. Death Bed will never ever make someone afraid of entering a Sleepys. However, it did have creepy moments, like the close-up of the demon’s eyes. Since this was filmed on a cheap budget in the 70s, the lighting and sound is actually kinda unnerving at parts. Seems strange, I know, but the look of the film is better than the ridiculous premise.
How Much Gore: Death Bed eats its victims raw so there’s plenty of blood.
Dumb Moments: I don’t think I even need to write about dumb moments. All 77 minutes of its running time is a plethora of dumb. I’m not even going to pick one scene. I just can’t.
Any Nudity: There’s four instances of nudity in fact. The first victim with the fried chicken, Suzan, Diane (briefly) and the demon’s lover at the end. I kinda expected that since this is about a killer bed movie.
Overall: Think of all the best-worst films you can: Manos, The Room, Plan 9, Troll 2, Birdemic; They all share something in common with Death Bed. A director, who had no business being behind a camera with money to spend making a movie. Think about this. Someone tells you about an idea they have for a horror movie. It doesn’t feature vampires, serial killers, mutant monsters or giant animals but a demon. You say, OK, could be good. This idea man goes on to tell you its about a demon who possesses a bed and that bed has the power to kill people and eat them. What do you tell that person? How hard do you laugh at them? Do you slowly walk the other way or do you think this person needs professional help. There’s a ton of dumb horror movies out there. Some are so bad they are unwatchable. Some are so bad they transcend the limits of bad and become entertaining. Oddly enough Death Bed is no exception. It is a wonder this film ever got made and should be cherished. I’m very fortunate and honored to live on the same planet that also exists a movie about a killer bed. And you should too.
Score: 4 Dissolved Hands (out of 10)