I’ll be frank. I originally rented Death Bed: The Bed That Eats way back in 2006 because of its title. It struck me funny. Why the subtitle? Why not just Death Bed? And why “the bed that eats”? Why not “the bed that kills”?
The joke’s on me, because the subtitle is perfectly appropriate. This bed does indeed eat people. We first see it in action when a young couple visits the abandoned mansion where the bed resides. While the couple commence romantic frolicking, the bed starts bubbling up yellow foam that sucks down their picnic lunch, “eats” it (we see the food dissolving in what looks like a yellow-tinted fish tank), and then spits out apple cores and chicken bones. The bed then discreetly draws the curtains and devours the couple. And this all happens before the credits!
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is one of the more bizarre films I’ve seen in a long time. Filming started in 1972; the movie was completed in 1977 and played an indie fest here and there, but couldn’t get a distributor and remained without an official release until its DVD debut in 2003. This lengthy a stay on the shelf wouldn’t indicate a film of great quality, and Death Bed isn’t a great film. But there’s a lot of imagination behind it and it’s nice to see a low-budget ‘70s-era horror film that doesn’t rip off Texas Chainsaw, The Exorcist, or Last House on the Left.
After the opening segment when our happy couple is devoured by the bed, we meet the narrator. He’s an artist who was eaten by the bed; however, since he was dying of tuberculosis, the bed didn’t find him tasty and he ended up in a limbo dimension behind one of his paintings on the wall. This painter has been in limbo for 60 years, and he gives us a rather jumbled history of the bed and some of the people it’s devoured. Then things liven up with the visit of three young women to the abandoned house where the bed waits, tasty treats for the bed except for one, whom the bed finds frightening for some reason…
As you’ve no doubt realized, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is a bit out to lunch (pun definitely intended). It’s less a horror film than a wonky art film, almost European in its tone and style. There are a few genuinely surreal images (a rose bush sprouting from the skull of a devoured victim, a “book of dead people” that contains reflecting pages). The pace is sluggish (the film could easily have been pared down by half an hour), but what really makes Death Bed: The Bed That Eats a strange experience is the shifts in tone. Some of the devouring scenes are comical (there’s one involving a swingers’ orgy that’s truly hilarious), one is serene and almost erotic, another is clearly intended to be horrifying. The film’s most gruesome moment, when a person’s hands are devoured by the bed, leaving only the bones, is botched when the character’s reaction is a bemused “Huh” expression.
The cast are no-names, and while they aren’t great, for the most part they’re not bad either (the main exception is the guy who gets his hands dissolved – he’s awful). One woman is a dead ringer for Linda Lovelace, if that floats your boat.
Overall Death Bed has a lot of interesting things going on, but the whole thing just doesn’t hold together all that well. (Perhaps it could be shortened and teamed up with other films about carnivorous furniture – a vicious coat tree, or perhaps a rabid bidet?) Still, I have to give it points for originality and effort.
With Death Bed's Blu-ray debut, Cult Epics' 1.33:1 transfer of the film looks surprisingly good, especially for a nearly four-decade old cheapie originally shot on 16mm. There's the expected amount of grain and detail isn't exactly popping off the screen, but Death Bed looks as good as one can expect, and, more than likely, the best it ever will. The two DTS HD audio tracks (stereo and 5.1) are serviceable, but there's a somewhat grating hissing sound that plays throughout on both tracks. It's less noticeable on the 5.1 track, which attempts to lend depth and dimension to what was orignally a badly dubbed mono track.
Cult Epics originally released Death Bed on DVD back in 2004, and the extras left much to be desired, but, with this Blu-ray release, the company has gone all out. Along with the previously available introduction by director, George Barry, we are given a pair of interview featurettes, (Behind the Scenes of Death Bed in Detroit and Nightmare USA), a feature-length commentary track with Barry and and author Stephen Thrower, and an alternate end-credits music track.
If you’re looking for something different, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats fits the bill. You might not want to watch it on your bedroom TV, though.