Friday, July 19, 2013

The Cinema File #220: "Under The Bed" Review

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've always been a fan of movies that pit younger protagonists against supernatural evil. To me, its the perfect fit, as most primal fears that inspire a belief in the supernatural begin in childhood. Most people don't start being afraid of the Boogeyman at age 30. A while back I reviewed The Hole 3D, a disjointed mess of a movie by Joe Dante that given my intense love for the majority of the man's work I found massively disappointing. I just watched the independent horror/fantasy film Under The Bed, and frankly, any die hard fan who was as saddened by The Hole as I was needs to watch this movie to see exactly where Dante went so wrong.

Under The Bed is at the outset a simple story about two brothers battling the Boogeyman. The twist is, the arrival of this nocturnal creature who stalks them and claws at them from the shadows is not a sudden event, but rather a chronic problem. This monster has been mentally abusing these kids for years, and no one will believe them, making them hostages in their own house as those around them think they're crazy. This isn't a lighthearted story of brotherly love, but rather a dark and twisted tale of prolonged trauma, and eventually revenge.

It starts off a little slow, but long before you can get annoyed with the pacing you realize that the tension its building is decidedly original and instantly intriguing. They've learned the rules, figured out the patterns of the thing as best they can, enough that they can survive if they're smart, but one false move and they're dead, and one too many close calls convinces them that living with a monster isn't possible anymore, and they have to fight back. That's when the chainsaw comes out. You can easily replace Boogeyman with pedophile priest and with the exception of all the decapitation, the premise would essentially be the same.

Normally in movies like this, the supernatural element is always ultimately treated somewhat dismissively, such that the children involved in the fight against it aren't put through too much trauma during the battle. The Monster Squad might be fighting Dracula and The Wolf Man, but at the end of the day its an adventure. In Under The Bed, shit gets real fast and the heart of the movie comes from watching these shell shocked youths up against something that's a genuine threat and taking responsibility, without making them too smart or sophisticated so as to be unrelatable as kids.

The monster itself is well done by low budget indie standards, and the extent to which it looks like a cheesy rubber suit is downplayed very well by keeping it mostly in shadow, confined to a few shots of claws or a dark figure cloaked in bed sheets. The only problem I see with the movie is the gore, which sounds really strange coming from me, but in this case, I really wish they would have toned it down to make this more suitable for younger kids. Absent the bloody climax, this is exactly the kind of movie I would have grooved on as a kid, and exactly the kind of movie I'd want inspiring today's kids to grow up into weird horror junkies like me, but as it stands, I can't recommend letting the average kid anywhere near it.

That being said, the young at heart who still remember cowering under the sheets from the things that go bump in the night should definitely give this movie a shot. Under The Bed captures that sense of childlike terror at the unknown perfectly and builds from the very beginning, escalating the tension with each paranormal encounter until the last act explodes into a flurry of insane bloodshed and carnage. In short, this movie doesn't fuck around, and if you get a chance to see it, definitely check it out.  

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