REVIEW: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977), by George Barry

Hey, I reviewed Troll 2 and Manos. It can't hurt to take a look at Death Bed too.

A  couple is hiking through the woods to get to an old abandoned house.  There's a bed in there that they want to fuck on. Well, that the dude wants  to fuck on--this is an awkward sort of relationship. Judging from  douchedude's letterman jacket they might be meant to be high school  students. There's a man who's been trapped behind a painting in the  bedroom for sixty years, who is unable to speak to the other characters  but narrates the film. He watches as the bed first eats their  food--extruding a foamy yellow stomach acid to do so--and then the  lovers themselves. The rest of the film follows the misadventures of the  various people who stumble across and are eaten by the Death Bed.  Slowly, the narrator reveals the Bed's story: long ago, a demon fell in  love with a human woman and created a bed to seduce her in. However,  because he was a demon she died during their encounter, and in his grief  for her he cried tears of blood, which animated the bed with a  ceaseless hunger. Eventually, the narrator is able to speak to a girl  who is the reincarnation of the bed's "mother," and with some good ol'  ceremonial magic the bed is put to rest.

If a movie with the title Death Bed: The Bed That Eats was made today, you can bet it would be some sort of zany Troma-esque comedy. And while Death Bed is  certainly a comedy, it's not really "zany." Or disgusting. Or stupid.  That being said, it's not particularly smart, either. It just has style.  I've tagged it as "artsy" but in terms of theme and universal questions  and whatnot, it's not particularly strong. But it adopts a strange  dignity unto itself. Close-up shots show blood droplets snuffing out  candle-flames. Statues cry sanguinary tears. Old-timey sepia stock  footage plays. And, there is a lady who sleeps in the bed reading a  magazine called Oral Lesbians.

Yeah, this movie  is pretty goofy. One of the prolonged flashbacks in the history of the  Death Bed--surely the most essential of all of them--tells the tale of  "Dr." Graham and his wife, who turned the mansion of the Death Bed's  residence into a sexual healing clinic; i.e. an orgy club. The narrator  speaks of the Death Bed's "one true feast" of six orgy practitioners,  including the good doctor and his wife, one sunlit afternoon. I seem to  remember this subplot taking up around ten minutes of the movie. It  feels like that in any case. They could've done a whole movie with just  that in my mind, but I need to be careful what I wish for.

Probably  my favorite detail about this movie's weird sideways humor is the fact  that the narrator, based on his appearance, on the style of his art, and  on the fact that he died of tuberculosis before being trapped behind  his painting, is 19th Century artist Aubrey Beardsley. I can think of no  reason as to why they would choose Beardsley of all people to fulfill  this role aside from that George Barry was a fan of his (and not without  reason). The fact that they don't even say his name in the credits  makes this a fun inside joke to catch. They even get to joke around with  some of his famous quotes, paraphrasing them somewhat: "You have one  aim--the grotesque. You are nothing if not grotesque. Except hungry."  It's something for snobs and gorehounds alike.

And  indeed, this is a pretty gory movie--a lighter H.G. Lewis, I would say.  This gore is accompanied wonderfully by a plethora of bad acting. The  two go so well together. I would say this is a Kids Goofing Off sort of  deal but the people involved are in their 40s, so it's Director's  Friends Goofing Off instead. Performances range from sincere to  intoxicated. Try to strain out some of the dialogue and guffaw endlessly  at the inanity of some of the deliveries. To say nothing of the  material itself.

If there was any sort of theme  to the movie, it would be one of awkwardness. The couple at the  beginning is awkward. The group who shows up at the house at the  beginning are all awkward coworkers. A man has his hands eaten down to  the bones by the bed, and his response is one of feeling awkward. The  demon who was the bed's "father" fucked the love of his life to death  Edward Cullen-style, which is awkward. I don't know what the director  was trying to say with this, if anything. Perhaps just that life is  awkward, even when you are being digested by demonically-possessed  furniture. Truer words, never spoken.

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