With various tips of Freddy’s fedora to the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise and a premise which paddles precariously close to CREEPSHOW 2’s “The Raft” segment, Black Fawn Films’ slumber shocker, BED OF THE DEAD tucks a torrent of deviceful twists under its sheets to prove that odes to the ’80s don’t necessarily have to pale in comparison to their fountain of references.
Not all that far removed from the DREAM WARRIORS entry in the NOES franchise, BED OF THE DEAD finds four twenty-somethings stuck on a haunted antique four-poster bed which harbors an evil intention: To deal out vengeance on those guilty of sin. The bed achieves its designs by unearthing miscreants’ sordid secrets, conjuring up hallucinatory memories to tease its victims off the mattress before putting them to eternal sleep in some of the most merciless manners imaginable.
Despite unabashedly aping from all the aforementioned cult classics, Maher and Calahan’s script oozes with fresh ideas which keep things both curious and capricious. What made the Elm Street franchise so unique was the creepy depiction of its teenagers’ nightmare worlds and BED OF THE DEAD’s hallucinatory sequences are just as disquieting, featuring some out-and-out unnerving imagery which serves as the perfect harbinger to all manner of exotically savage kill scenes. The bone-crushing, gut-busting effects once again come from the discerning hands of the ever-impressive Carlos Henriques and his crew at The Butcher Shop, with Ariana Roberts heading up an amazing makeup team.
Yet, despite rocking by far the most inspired bit of Black Fawn bloodshedding to date, the film’s killer claw is a potent plot device put into play with the ill-fated bedfellows somehow able to make phone contact with the very detective who is investigating their unfathomable deaths ….. two hours in the future. With everyone having met their maker in the “alternate” future, BED OF THE DEAD escalates into a ticking time bomb as detective Vigil races against a Jack Bauer-esque countdown on his cell to try and figure out how to recast the timeline and save the bed-ridden worrywarts. The parallel timeline concept works wonders and keeps the audience on its toes as all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, ensuring a film set almost entirely in the confines of hotel room 18 is all the more electrifying than it might sound on paper.
Performance-wise, most of the cast are clearly committed to their roles, with Alyssa King and Colin Price shouldering most of the movie, harboring more demons in their closets than most. On a purely trivial note, those of you who’ve been following the Black Fawn Films journey should pay close attention for a number of blink or you’ll miss them cameos: Bugs become reporters, directors become lumberjacks, etc., etc…
This being Jeff Maher’s first gig in the helmer’s chair after working on umpteen Black Fawn Films features as DoP, his cinematographer of choice is Micha Dahan who doesn’t let the team down, serving up just as menacingly lustrous cinematography as Maher has before her. And when it comes to the score, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve preached my praises of Steph Copeland in previous reviews but, time and again, she never fails to outdo herself with each new project. Given BED OF THE DEAD’s sex club setting, she told me she was listening to a lot of Cliff Martinez and Trent Reznor, and whilst those influences definitely shine through, I felt much more of a John Carpenter meets Charles Bernstein vibe creeping through. But the real reason for my secret love affair with Copeland’s scoring lies in the fact that she’s as sedulous as they come, with each and every note perfectly synchronized with what we see on the screen … to the millisecond.
In putting this review to bed, Maher’s unorthodox and harrowing hallucination-plagued nightmare, replete with Black Fawn Film’s most inventive kills to date, proves just how much mileage you can get out of a (virtually) single location setting. Sleep will be lost after watching BED OF THE DEAD, but it’s a small price to pay as this is absolutely essential viewing, especially for anyone with a weak spot for the perennial classics of the ’70s and ’80s.
And if you aren’t familiar with Black Fawn Films, BED OF THE DEAD is a better excuse than any to get right into bed with them.
CHUCKY RATING: Four best friends ’till the end.