Under The Bed Review
By Dan Cole
We are all familiar with the bogeyman. It lurks in the dark corners of your room. It scares children the world over. Nowhere is safe from its evil not even your own bed. The bogeyman has been the subject of countless horror films and works well as a horror antagonist due to the inherent fear it represents. The fact that it reminds people of the fear they faced when they where younger and wondered what was silently wandering around their rooms. Director Steven C. Miller’s film tackles the creature head on.
The film focuses on Neal (Jonny Weston) and Paulie (Gattlin Griffith), brothers who have just been reunited after two years. Neal has been away due to some weird goings on that ended with a house fire. Of course the moment Neal comes back the spooky occurrences seem to intensify. What follows is an attempt to do something a little different with the bogeyman scenario, but Miller fails to achieve this.
When the film begins there is a conscious effort from Miller, and screenwriter Eric Stolze, to produce a more nuanced tale than the title suggests. In fact the film opens more like a drama than your typical horror, with Neal and his father (Peter Holden) exchanging a few words. However the only real nuance is given to Neal’s character. His reactions in the opening moments as he meets his new stepmom (Musetta Vander) and a girl he likes (Kelcie Stranahan) give him a few layers that other horror protagonists lack. However as the film continues this all comes crumbling down.
Weston is a solid lead, but his character starts off as a three-dimensional human being and then slowly devolves over the course of the film. Halfway through there is an unnecessary moment where Neal sees his love interest across the street and he decides to light a cigarette and put his hoody up, just because he is the token “outsider” hero. That scene is a prime example of the films major flaw. It lacks subtly.
Miller’s camera work overstates his intentions and there is too much emphasis on lingering shots of Neal’s bedroom door. In fact the moment Neal first comes back to the house is dealt with in such an overblown manner you expect the place to explode when he finally makes his way upstairs. Miller leaves subtly at the door instantly, but continues to attempt to be “subtle” which makes the film even more frustrating to watch. His lack of restraint and inability to slowly build tension means that the scares completely fail and often seem lazy. The film is also visually bland as Miller relies heavily on fog machines, light creeping out of doors and a blue colour palette to create a spooky atmosphere.
The lack of subtly continues with the over blown score from Ryan Dodson. Explosions of audio happen on a whim, as the score grows to epic proportions at certain points. There has never been such a loud score for a horror film. It is intrusive and destroys any atmosphere Miller attempts creates.
It is also a shame that the film doesn’t really capitalize on its premise in a thoughtful or meaningful way. The idea that a teenager that was haunted by the bogeyman so much that he burnt down a house and then was sent away only to return to face it once more has a lot of potential. Add to this the fact that the creature has been slowly targeting his brother and you have the makings of a decent script. But Stolze’s script doesn’t want to commit to anything really.
Stolze attempts to explore the psychological ramifications that come with the bogeyman, but only in the most fleeting way. He also tries to show how the family reacts to Neal’s apparent crazy behaviour, but that is so badly mishandled that the dad comes across as an unreasonable psycho. This is due to the fact that outside of Neal, and to a lesser extent Paulie, the rest of the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes at best. With the angry dad, the understanding stepmom and the wooden love interest being at the forefront of the film. However it must be said that the decision to have the narrative play out like a sequel adds a little depth and mystery to the film’s first half. But in the end Stolze’s script fails to do anything other than glance at ideas and tread water until the ridiculous third act.
A third act that has the director and writer concede defeat, as the film descends into a pointless gore fest. Even though Miller and Stolze where unsuccessful in their attempts to create a more interesting story about the bogeyman in the film’s first half, it is infinitely superior to the films final act. When the monster is unleashed you won’t know whether to think the film is being serious or comical. The gore comes out of nowhere and is over the top. It is as if the film was bored with its initial intentions and just decided to change its mind at the last minute. It is made even more annoying as the creature design is uninspired. It may have been better to keep it hidden under the sheets. At least under the sheets the monster’s appearance references Francisco Goya’s “Here Comes The Bogeyman.” Also the way in which the monster is defeated is ludicrous.
This tonal shift in the third act derails an already heavily flawed film and destroys any goodwill it may have garnered. Although the intentions of Miller are apparent they are never achieved. Making sure that Under The Bed is a film best left alone.
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