XLrator Media, founded in 2010, focuses on second and third tier movie releases aimed at “enthusiast genres and categories that are underserved by the major studios and most independents.” I applaud them for their efforts as not much of their library will ever be considered classics, however they do know that there is a dedicated sub-culture committed to watching horror movies, no matter how small the budget. Their latest release “Under the Bed” pretty much defines what they set out to accomplish.
Troubled teen Neil Hausman (Jonny Weston) has just returned home after spending two years with his aunt in Florida following the death of his mother. Upon his return he is reunited with his father (Peter Holden), his brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) and his new stepmom Angela (Musetta Vander). Two years earlier, there was a house fire presumably set by Neil by mistake which resulted in his mother’s death. He claimed that there was a monster under his bed and he was trying to kill it. When he returns home, he is told by Paulie that the monster was real as it is now threatening him as well. Together they attempt to fight the monster and at the same time deal with their disbelieving dad and his new wife.
There are shades of other B-grade suburban horror films like “The Gate” and “Pulse” as there is a domestic drama coinciding with otherworldly terrors. What’s disturbing about these types of movies is the fact that your home, the one place that is a comfortable refuge from the rest of the world is now the place the presents the most danger. “Under the Bed” tries it’s hardest at this premise however it comes off feeling hollow and inadequate. You could say the monster under the bed is a metaphor to assist the real issue of the film; family dysfunction in the midst or tragic events. More screen time is spent on that dynamic and while it genuinely has moments of created awkward family moments, there are far too many instances of stereotypical arguing and posturing. The father in particular is poorly conceived as he is angrier than he should be leaving any sympathy for him by the wayside.
The film’s strength lies within the relationship of the two brothers, Neil and Paulie. The many moments they share come off as genuine and well established. The scene where they are riding bikes as they hangout for the first time in years is a nice moment. This is what ultimately keeps the film from being an outright failure. There is believability to their relationship. Other than that, the audience waits far too long for the R-rated payoff at the end. However the few moments of gore is almost worth the wait as there are several cast members that get outright torn apart with blood flying everywhere. You can tell a large portion of the budget was set aside for these effects. It’s just too bad that there weren’t many more of them as it would have definitely helped the picture. My biggest complaint is that there are hints as a potential bloodbath of a final fight scene by the introduction of a couple of nasty weapons but it never comes to fruition. Instead it uses a bland and somewhat confusing tool to help dispatch evil.
Taking a childhood fear and making a full length movie just about it specifically is terribly hard to do creativity-wise. While I like the idea of treating this almost like a sequel, they should have fully committed to that idea and shown what had happened to Neil the previous time as a montage in the beginning. There is too much reliance on the viewer’s imagination. Too many questions are left unanswered: Where does the creature come from? Why does it do the things it does? Why can’t anyone outside of the room ever hear the things that go on inside? Perhaps a different script could have provided better answers. At 88 minutes, there is not much time for expanding the story beyond the bare minimum.
Shot with a Red One MX camera, the 2.35:1 picture impresses nicely on standard DVD. This is a movie that is steeped in darkness with swirls of fog milling about and I was surprised at how well the 480p picture held up. There is some inevitable crushing in the darkest scenes and some of the should-be blacks end up being dark grays. Contrast holds up well for the most part.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is easily the best part of the disc. The music used is atmospheric, brooding and has moments of pounding your senses. Bass is turned up to 11 all the way through giving a nice sense of heft and immersion. From the growls of the creature to the deep musical cues, this one will keep you awake while the story tries to put you to sleep.
The idea is intriguing, to explore the possible creature under the bed that plagued us all as children when our young minds would run rampant with fear of the unknown. However, the transition of that idea to a full length feature film has inevitable plot holes that bog down the experience. Perhaps a different angle exploring the legend would have been better. As it is we’re thrust into the mysterious drama with little detail and even worse, slight cinematic revelations. Video and audio are pretty darn good for Standard DVD. Recommended for anyone who is looking for anything new to watch this upcoming horror-watching season, but just beware it may not be entirely satisfying.