Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #170
Number of Views: One
Release Date: July 19, 2012
Country of Origin: Canada, United States
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Steven C. Miller
Producers: William Clevinger, Brad Miska
Screenplay: Eric Stolze
Special Effects: George Frangadakis, Vincent J. Guastini
Cinematography: Joseph White
Score: Ryan Dodson
Editing: Steven C. Miller
Studio: Site B, Through the Heart
Distributor: XLrator Media, Anderson Digital
Stars: Jonny Weston, Gattlin Griffith, Peter Holden, Musetta Vander, Kelcie Stranahan, Bryan Rasmussen, Nikki Griffin, Tyler Steelman, Sam Kindseth, Ivan Djurovic
Suggested Audio Candy
Lucas King “Under The Bed”
Most of us have a monster in our closet at some point during our childhood. A demon synonymous to us; delegated the responsibility of giving us the nightly willies and keeping us afraid of the dark. In rooms with particularly cramped closets, sometimes these specters take up residence under the bed. I purposely stuffed this area with pornography as a bairn, just to make it a little less leisurely a pursuit for any such cretin. If Poltergeist did a number on me with its free-roaming terror clown, then Friday The 13th batted the point home by proving that you’re not safe topside either.
Keeper set up a nightly fortress from bed linen to keep any long-legged stragglers at bay. I fashioned an impenetrable bunker, ensuring at all times that every part of me was inside and entirely concealed from whatever night terrors were lurking outside. Somehow this worked for me, I performed daily limb checks and thankfully nothing was ever amiss. I have long since stopped this rigorous pursuit although admittedly, should I be alone in the house, I still canter up the stairs at an alarming rate of knots so as to evade any grasping claws through the banister.
Steven C. Miller’s Under The Bed deals with one such night crawler, a creature so uncompromisingly horrendous that it’ll have you screaming for top bunk. Miller has been quietly building himself a reputation as a bit of an up-and-comer, having already been responsible for Automation Transfusion, Scream of The Banshee and the recently appraised luke-warm Silent Night remake. Here he brings us a suburban nightmare which should resonate with the child inside us all.
It tells the tale of Neil Hausman (Johnny Weston), a teen returning home for the first time since losing his mother to the lurking letch and burning his house to the ground. His father Terry (Peter Holden) has moved on and now lives with new girlfriend Angela (Musetta Vander) but Neil is far more interested in catching up with younger brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) who shares his older brother’s torment and lives in constant fear of this abominable bed-bug which seemingly banquets on dead skin-cells each night the youngster slumbers.
From the offset it is apparent that this is one slickly produced picture. On a technical level, Miller does not so much as set a foot wrong and its crisp, clean visuals are matched by a rousing score which helps amplify the suspense, although if anything this is a little too grandiose for what is transpiring on-screen. The cast is uniformly excellent and Eric Stolze script offers plenty of credible dialogue to help us relate to each character. In particular, the chemistry between Weston and baby bro Griffith is honest and beautifully understated, both lads giving performances far better than is customary for a low-budget indie flick such as this.
There are wistful gazes from Neil’s neighbor Cara (Kelcie Stranahan) and an unspoken connection between the pair which Stolze’s treatment never fully explores and instead it hones in on the boys’ unbreakable bond and their attempts to thwart the incubus once and for all. For the first two acts it sets up with precision, choosing an effective slow burn method rather than pummeling our senses at every turn and the sparsely punctuated thrills are rather well orchestrated. Then something totally uncharacteristic happens and the final third escalates into downright carnage.
This throws a rather large cat amongst the pigeons as we move away from its PG-13 origins and deep into R territory. Given the fact that it had played out to that point like a modern throwback to such eighties classics as The Gate and The Monster Squad, Miller’s decision is all the more befuddling. Moreover, logic goes straight out the window and any sound choices follow. It’s a particularly unfathomable cop-out and robs Under The Bed of any plausibility but, on the plus side for those wishing to see some gnarly grue and make-up effects, there is a sudden crescendo of the red stuff to sink your incisors into.
It stunts the experience as a whole as one of the refreshing factors until then has been that folk react how you would expect them to given the circumstances. Stolze’s smart script had, up until then, allowed Peter Holden’s Terry to come across as a man truly at odds with himself over his hard-line parenting. Rather than simply being unlikable authoritarian, he reacts with such discombobulation that it is easily possible to relate to his character’s harsh punishment. All that hard work goes to waste as it escalates into nonsense and the film is tainted by this turn of events.
Nevertheless, Miller does a lot right with Under The Bed. Beautifully shot, marvelously played and suitably creepy, it shows once more that he is a talent worth watching from hereon in. For two-thirds of its duration, it makes a perfect companion piece to Joe Dante’s The Hole. He just needs to learn how to seal the deal.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: It’s almost schizophrenic but, when the restraints come off, Under The Bed really pours on the sauce. Heads are split like honeydew lemons and limbs tugged free from their bloodied stumps in a final act which turns everything on its head. Meanwhile, a brief glimpse at the hellish anti-Utopian landscape under the bed is a novel inclusion, although not nearly enough is done with this opportunity. On a more positive note, Miller’s decision to make the monster in this closet a man-in-rubber as opposed to using any CGI is truly refreshing.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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