Death Bed: The Bed That Eats

I hope there's not some sort of house-cleaning maniac around.
★★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1977
Director: 
George Barry
Starring: 
Demene Hall, William Russ, Julie Ritter, Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas
The Setup: 
Bed in remote room eats people.
Discussion: 

A person on my message board said that this, and Christmas Evil, where along the best things he watched in 2007, and as this was already on my list, I bumped it to the top. Christmas Evil turned out to be good, too. One has the choice of watching the introduction by writer/director George Barry, who informs us that this film was made over the course of several years, 1973-77, and then he couldn’t find a distributor for it, so it was essentially never released. Then in 2003 he saw a review of it on the internet [note the extreme detail with which he describes his navigational experience; “I clicked here… then I opened that page… and then I saw this link… and so I clicked…] and, realizing that his film was being pirated, set about releasing it himself, and the DVD is the glorious result. The director is shot with his collection of action figures lining the shelves behind him, and he says that when people ask him if he thinks of his film as a little odd, says no, he doesn’t think so. Keep that in mind.

We open with a black screen as we hear the sound of an apple being eaten—for nearly a full minute. We then see the bed, this big black four-poster thing, and this Aubrey Beardsley-type black and white painting hanging on the adjacent wall. We find out that the spirit of a man is trapped in the painting—we see him in a chamber looking through the painting, it’s actually kind of clever—and that the painting is his only way of warning people about the bed.

So then this young couple come along, whereupon we hear the artist say “It’s waking up!” and hear the bed yawn and smack it’s lips. If it had lips. Now, this couple think it would be the most rad thing to break into this cottage behind this old mansion and have sex on this bed that’s in there. That makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m sure there are any number of pieces of furniture around your neighborhood that you covet and are perhaps planning on breaking and entering to get access to for whatever purpose you may have. So you have that, made even less believable by the fact that the bed is in this stone shack which, on the inside, is a sparse brick room with NOTHING in it except the bed, painting, and a wooden fireplace mantle. It looks like a coal basement, and we are somehow to believe that people want into this coal basement to have hot sex on this bed. Okay? Only, as usual, it’s really mostly the guy who wants to have sex, the woman is quite reluctant and could also be described as an uptight worry-wart.

At this point the dreamy nature of the narrative is kind of intriguing and the thing is actually managing to generate some suspense just by making you wonder: HOW is this bed going to eat them?

We needn’t wonder long. The couple has brought along an apple, a bottle of wine, and a bucket of fried chicken. First the apple descends into the bed in a rush of yellow foam, then we see it hanging in bubbling yellow fluid as though it is being deep-fried. The core returns to the surface of the bed. Meanwhile, the woman, who, as I mentioned, is not really feelin’ the love vibe of breaking and entering to have sex on a bed mysteriously placed in a dank coal basement, and she stalls by saying she’s so hungry, let’s get out the food. They get out the aforementioned fried chicken, then we are surprised to see that for someone who was so hungry, the woman forgets the food and starts kissing the guy passionately. During this time, the bed eats the fried chicken and consumes the wine. Almost immediately upon returning the chicken bucket to the top of the bed, the woman suddenly breaks off their amorous encounter because she really wants to eat. Then, upon discovering that all the food is gone, she says “Don’t worry, I wasn’t hungry anyway.” This is what psychologists mean when they talk about MIXED SIGNALS. The woman then lies completely inert as the man feels and kisses her, and we hear their screams as the curtains gently close around the bed and they are presumably being eaten.

SPOILERS > > >
We now have a montage, narrated by the artist in the painting, of the bed killing over the decades. This includes many spinning newspaper headlines, including one that says “Mayor demands action!” at which point we hear a voice saying “Action! Action! We need action!” The next headline is “Mayor Killed.” It seems that the bed and the artist are trapped in this sort of eternal routine, with the artist feeling pity for all the unfortunates that get killed by the bed. By the way, the first couple happened after a title that said “Breakfast,” and now it’s time for “Lunch.”

Now three young women are on their way to the house. There’s a black one, Diane, who was asked to house sit, which is a little ludicrous when you consider that we’re talking about a deserted stone cottage. Along with her are Sharon, this strange-looking one with long crimped hair, and Susan, who is somehow running away or something. Diane thinks Susan is just such a pain in the ass. She asks if Susan brought a change of clothes, and Susan says no, but she brought some flowers, which makes Diane roll her eyes and speak patronizingly about bringing flowers to the country.

So once they get to the cottage and look around, Susan has the willies, and does NOT want to sleep in the big bed with the other two. Apparently she’s afraid of some sort of lesbian rape? So she decides she’ll sleep while they take a walk, then she can lay awake the whole night, crouched in the cold, musty concrete corner, while the other girls sleep later. Talk about passive-aggressive. She undresses while the artist in the painting PANTS as though he’s waxing his bishop and then a hand mirror breaks right as she holds it, causing her to casually state; “That’s odd.” Why, yes it is, little Susan. She then goes to sleep and has a dream that she is served a nasty sandwich with a huge roach in it. Meanwhile the bed has taken the crucifix around her neck and started to use the chain to saw her head off. Seems like that’s going to take all day, so finally it just does the foam-thing on her.

After a short intro to this brother who has to go look for his runaway sister, who I think turns out to be Sharon, we return as Diane and Sharon come back to the cottage to find Susan missing. I thought it was a little hilarious how they keep talking about “making dinner” and you’re like “With what?” All they have is a fireplace mantle and a few sticks, i.e. no food, no pots or pans of Mrs. Dash.

Now we break for a bit more of the bed’s history. We see a woman sitting on the bed reading a paper with the headline “Oral Lesbians.” I wish I could have taken better stills off the DVD but the disc crashed my computer twice… which makes me angry. We find out that there used to be this doctor who thought the bed was a sexual rejuvenator, leading to a sequence of a whore in bed with a guy. We hear as she thinks “Oh God, what a loser.” Then there is what is supposed to be an orgy but is just people under a sheet making ludicrous whooping noises [kinky orgy!], then we see two guys who are using the bed to play CARDS on. When the bed starts eating, one of them takes a gun out of his pants and SHOOTS it. We find out that the bed absorbed the artist but didn’t eat him, locking him into his prison. And then; the story of how the bed came to be! It seems that there was some demon who fell in love with a “young girl,” and created the bed so they could be together on it. However, when they finally did it, he KILLED HER [uh… Hmm] and blood ran out of his eyes and fell on the bed and thus the demon possessed the bed. It really is about the only explanation that makes sense.

Then it’s time for Diane to kneel by the fireplace and reflect “This place looks clean for having been abandoned so long. I hope there’s not a maniac around.” Yes, I certainly hope there’s not an abandoned home-cleaning maniac around! This led to me, for the rest of the evening, saying things such as “I need a few more chips. I hope there’s not a maniac around.”

Diane falls asleep on the bed and has a dream in which she and Susan meet in a sort of death room, somewhat like the red room on Twin Peaks [in concept, not décor]. Diane starts to get dissolved, but pulls herself out [she is the only person who even thinks to struggle], and makes it to the door before she’s sucked back in. Sharon returns home in time to witness Diane’s final moments.

Then the curly-haired guy who has come to look for Sharon, his runaway sister, shows up. The bed belches up an eyeball at has it roll around the bed looking at people. The brother decides to stab the bed, and his hands are consumed. Now, either the brother is impervious to pain, or having the flesh dissolved off you hands is really not that painful. You know, just a mild tingling. Dismayed, they go sit in the corner and mope, whereupon the brother’s hands start falling apart, bone by bone. He asks his sister to snap them off, which she does, and they throw them in the fire and make S’Mores over them. It’s all true, except the S’Mores part.

Then the bed falls asleep, and the painting starts talking to Sharon. She takes her brother outside, then draws a figure 8 with the bed in one part, herself sitting in the other. The figure 8 starts on fire and suddenly the bed is transported outside. Then this woman in a grave—I think she’s supposed to be the one the demon that’s in the bed was in love with—comes up out of the ground and mates with the brother. Then the bed starts on fire and burns, and the artist burns in his painting, and that’s the end. Now, recall that the writer/director DOESN’T think this movie is that odd.
< < < SPOILERS END

Generally, not good, but so unique that it does kind of merit a watch. It’s so dreamy and evocative, with the idea of the artist trapped in his painting, cursed to watch the bed’s doings without being able to warn anyone, and the [granted, stupid] history of the bed through the ages… it just goes in wildly different directions than you expect, and is more interesting for it. The movie it reminded me of most is Glen or Glenda, which also—through sheer incompetence—maintains this dreamy vibe that suggests it is more than the sum of its parts. Although the bulk of the novelty is worn off by the second half, it still offers enough surprising twists and turns to make you stare at the screen, unable to believe what you’re seeing. Which hey, is worth something in itself.

Should you watch it: 

If it sounds like something you’d be into.