Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Director: George Barry

My old friend Nick came over to visit last night. As we often do when he visits, we watched one of my DVDs. Now Nick’s taste in film probably runs fairly straight as far as it goes; he’s not as au fait as I am with the historical side of things and the somewhat more under the radar end of the film spectrum, let alone something as… other as this film (which I first saw a few years ago at Mu-Meson Archives). DB:TBTE‘s own back story is the sort of thing that threatens to outshine the film’s actual content: mostly shot in 1972, final cut not actually produced until 1977, whereupon director Barry failed to find a distributor for it and never made another film. But! One of the companies he did try selling it to bootlegged the thing so it circulated before finally being properly released on DVD in 2004. A $30,000 indie job, DB:TBTE will almost certainly never be considered a great or even good film by regular standards; bad sound, cackhanded storytelling, rudimentary direction, acting that isn’t… No, the genius of the film—and I use that word advisedly—is right there in the title: “the bed that eats”. It tops this AV Club list of “ridiculous horror movie adversaries” quite comfortably. The idea of a killer bed—that gets indigestion and takes Pepto-Bismol from one of its victim’s handbags—is the sort of thing with the power to lift a film that would otherwise just be a useless piece of crap into an entirely new level; I’d actually kind of forgotten just how deranged the film actually is even apart from the astounding central conceit (oh, and let’s not forget the ghost of Aubrey Beardsley in the painting on the wall near the bed).

I don’t think poor Nick could’ve even conceived of such a thing as this even existing before I introduced him to it, and needless to say his reactions were great throughout; but he said something quite wise afterwards, that you couldn’t set out to actually deliberately make the film George Barry made. I think he nailed it: really, the most remarkable thing about the film’s strangeness is that it doesn’t seem deliberate or forced or contrived somehow. DB:TBTE gives the impression that Barry had absolutely no idea just how… abnormal his film was compared with, you know, even the general run of cheap early 70s horror. It is truly unto itself, a must-see thanks to its conceptual brilliance despite (because of?) the shoddy execution of same…

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