The Film: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats
The Principles: Demene Hall, William Russ, Julie Ritter… and the Death Bed!!! Written and Directed by George Barry.
The Premise: A demon’s tears cause a bed in an old mansion to eat whoever dares sleep in it.
Is it good: This is one of the strangest horror films I’ve ever seen before. It’s an oddity that has been known about in a few cult movie circles for over thirty years now, but has finally been rediscovered by a new generation of fans who truly love insane cinema.
Filming began in 1972. It was shot on 16mm. An answer print was struck in 1977, but the film was not released until 2003 on DVD. It was originally pirated on VHS over seas and has a small following all over the world. The director didn’t even know about its international cult status until he surprisingly came across a review of his “lost” film on the internet late one night.
I’d been hearing about it for a while, so I finally decided to buy a copy on Amazon and see what all the fuss was about. Now I understand. I’ve watched my fair share of horror movies that center on inanimate objects going on killing sprees before, but this is one of the most surreal I’ve ever seen.
Behind a scary old mansion lies a strange stone building that contains only a single room. In this room lies a bed that is cursed with evil power. It craves the flesh and bones of whomever dares to rest upon its soft, comforting mattress – pulling them deep down inside and dissolving their bodies with a bright yellow acid bath. In the same room there is a painting on the wall that contains a sympathetic ghost trapped behind it (?!). The soulful spirit is forced to watch helplessly as the bed claims one victim after another, but can do nothing to warn them.
We learn from the ghost’s narration that the bed’s deadly origin is due to a demon who was once saddened over the death of a fair maiden he loved a long time ago and cried two tears of blood on its sheets. Voila, instant Death Bed! The stone structure was erected around it when the mansion was built and the bed has gorged itself on every generation that has ever lived there. Due to its reputation, the place is empty and the bed hasn’t eaten much in about ten years. However, it still gets its share of visitors and weary travelers looking for a place to rest.
A young couple stops by with a picnic lunch, but they decide to make a little love instead. The bed munches them and their fried chicken dinner up in seconds. It also eats a priest, a handicapped little girl, a couple of stupid criminals and a group orgy. Three attractive young ladies on vacation stop by looking for a place to spend the night. Instead, they are placed on the bed’s menu, as its insatiable appetite threatens them each.
One has horrible flashback/nightmares of her mother feeding her food made with bugs while she sleeps in the bed one night. The fiendish furniture chokes the poor girl with her own crucifix and gobbles her up, digesting her as four beautiful roses appear outside in the garden that are grown from her magically transported skull in the ground. Watching it is like cinematic eye-terrorism.
Another is horribly injured when the bed chews up her legs and we watch as the very physical actress pulls herself out of the room with only her arms in one excruciatingly long, continuous shot. Truly, an insane moment to behold.
The last damsel left is immune to the bed’s supernatural capabilities because she causes its “stomach” to bleed out. Her older brother arrives in the nick of time to save her, but ends up getting his hands chewed off by the monstrous mattress. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’m sure you can imagine that it’s as stark raving crazy as everything else I just described.
I know, all of this stuff sounds like I either made it up or took two fists full of peyote and hallucinated the whole thing, but I didn’t. I thought it was going to be a complete and total cheese fest from its title, and that is something it is definitely not. It’s a very gothic, dream-like little horror movie that has all the atmosphere of a Hammer film combined with some absolutely creepy imagery and a brooding musical score, but with a totally ape-shit crazy premise that is as interesting as it is ridiculous. I loved it!
Is it worth a look: If you’re a fan of uber-obscure, face-meltingly bizarre cinema, then this movie will rip your mind’s eye a new asshole! I suggest you watch it as soon as you can! Trust me, you’ve never seen anything even remotely like it before. It’s pure 70’s trash cinema combined with an art-house finesse and no-budget aesthetics that is as magical a combination as any I’ve bared witness to in some time. I do recommend that you abstain from the usage of any mind-altering substances while watching this film simply because, you really don’t need any. It already is a mind-altering substance.
Random anecdotes: Comedian Patton Oswalt has dedicated an entire comedy routine describing the film’s unique strangeness on his 2007 CD “Werewolves and Lollipops”, urging the audience to look it up on IMDB if they think he’s lying.
Cinematic soul mates: The Car, The Lift, Chopping Mall, Christine, Maximum Overdrive, and Rubber.