Under the Bed (2012)
Why aren’t there more movies that exploit our childhood fears? Think about it, there’s monsters in the closet, monsters living under the bed, and if you’re my seven year old daughter, there’s “things living in our air conditioning duct work” (I have no idea). Writer Eric Stolze, who also wrote the 2014 werewolf film LATE PHASES, takes the old childhood fear of something living under the bed and brings it to life. UNDER THE BED is directed by Steven C. Miller, the man who gave us the fantastic zombie flick AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION; the crime-thriller, THE AGGRESSION SCALE; the remake SILENT NIGHT; and the upcoming SUBMERGED and EXTRACTION, which stars Bruce Willis. I like Miller’s style and the unique tone and atmosphere he develops in his films. Plus, he’s not afraid to splash around the red stuff.
After the opening credits we meet Neal (Jonny Weston) as he’s headed home to live with his father Terry (Peter Holden), younger brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith), and new step-mom Angela (Musetta Vander). We know Neal was sent away to live with his aunt after a fire was started, which Neal apparently caused, that killed his mother. The first thing you notice is how tightly wound up everyone is. They’re all still trying to deal with the accident that claimed Neal and Paulie’s mother, but they are all suffering in different ways. Terry, the dad, blames Neal and though he knows it was an accident, he’s still hurting emotionally from the fire. Terry and Paulie and suffering because they know that what made Neal start the fire still lives in the house (more on this in a second). Angela is suffering because she just wants to put the past behind them all and have a “normal” family.
The big secret here, that I think gets exposed too early in the film, is that there is indeed some kind of creature living under the bed that torments the brothers. It used to torment Neal, but since Neal’s been away, it’s turned its attention to Paulie. There’s never a doubt as to whether there’s a real creature under the bed or if everything is just in the heads of the brothers. This aspect of the film felt a bit rushed. What I did like, though, is director Miller took his time to set everything up. We get to really know the characters and more importantly, care about them. Some may think the set up was too long and others may think the first two acts of UNDER THE BED were boring, but I thought it was a nice change that the film makes us actually care for the characters on the screen.
Miller also delivers some genuine scares, which is all too rare these days in horror films. As the brothers catch up on what’s been going on, we learn a little about the creature under the bed and what it might want. Neither brother knows exactly what the creature is after, but they do know the creature means them harm whenever they room becomes dark and whenever the creature senses motion. We get the standard sub-plot in these types of films where the parents don’t believe the children. Terry, the father, has had it with Neal’s behavior and often times exhibits an explosive temper. In Terry’s mind, Neal is way too old to be so scared about some “imaginary” creature living under the bed. Most nights Neal wakes the entire house up with his screams and cries for help. At one point the father locks the brothers in their bedroom and removes the light bulb. The results aren’t good.
The acting is solid from the entire cast as Miller gets great performances from them all. Miller also has a fantastic eye for setting up a shot. Even at its most grotesque, UNDER THE BED looks gorgeous. We get accents of dark blues and vibrant reds that really add a depth to what is happening on screen. And when we get to the final act of the film, Miller doesn’t back away from the gore at all. We get some pretty impressive gore set-pieces that really pushed along the final act of the film. The creature design is also pretty damn scary.
My two biggest complaints with this film are both with the ending. As much as Miller takes his time setting up the characters and the story, the entire ending seems very rushed. The entire build up early in the film made it seem like it was headed for a big battle between Neal and creature under the bed, but the final battle was over as quickly as it began. My other critique was how Neal defeated the creature. I won’t give anything away, but Neal’s solution had me wondering if I missed an important plot point earlier in the film (I watched almost the entire film over again, and no… I didn’t miss anything). The way Neal defeated the creature just didn’t make any sense.
There’s a lot to enjoy in UNDER THE BED. We get solid acting, a good script, and characters we actually care about. The tone and atmosphere of the film is also spot on, and Miller has an fantastic eye for setting up each shot. We even get a glimpse of what the creature’s world under the bed looks like. Unfortunately the movie falters in the final act and isn’t able to recover. The manner in which Neal defeats the creature just doesn’t make any sense, and the ending felt extremely rushed and was unsatisfying. Overall this is a fun little movie that fully exploits one of our childhood fears. There’s plenty to like here and even though you might feel a little disappointed with the ending, I think you’ll have fun with this one.
You can find UNDER THE BED streaming on Netflix.
Director: Steven C. Miller
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer