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A senseless story and slow at the start, but the bonkers gory creature-tastic third act are worth the price of admission!
on April 13, 2014
Novice director Steven C. Miller (Silent Night) takes a stab at an R-rated contemporized approach to the classic "monster under my bed" story. I was generally pleased with Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) and The Boogeyman (2005), so why not give this a shot?
After years apart following the death of his mother, disheveled and angsty teen Neal (Jonny Weston; John Dies at the End, Taken 3) returns home to live with his father (Peter Holden; Alien Abduction) and younger brother Paulie. He had been sent away two years ago to "get well" after he burned the house down with his mother in it, defending himself from the monster residing under his bed. Now that he has returned, he learns his little brother has been tormented by the same demon every night.
The notion that an otherworldly monster can magically cross into our dimension through the floor under one specific kid's bed is pretty silly. Terrifying, in fact. That it only does so in the dark while you're asleep…even scarier. There was so much potential for dark figures and painfully drawn-out tension. But for some reason I never saw or felt either. And what about the story…actually, what exactly is the story? What drives this monster and how did it get in their house? Why did it want these boys? Are there more of these monsters? Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) and The Boogeyman (2005) made at least some effort to explain their monsters, their motivations, their origins and their behavior. But here, it just seems that this monster came with the house and its abilities and weaknesses seem to change without explanation as the movie persists. That's really all we get.
Not willing to tell their parents this ridiculous story (as they haven't in years past), the two brothers unite to fight this monster. They arm themselves with flashlights, tape, wire, a power drill and duct tape. But is this monster really a threat? Neal was once psychologically tortured and sleep-deprived by this creature. But that creature had 365 opportunities a year to get the upper hand on a sleeping child and somehow never won! After Neal left, his younger brother made it 730 consecutive nights unscathed. If this monster was really in the business of eating children to survive, it clearly would have starved to death by now. It doesn't seem that menacing. A clawed hand reaching out from under the bed is scary, YES! But if it never does anything else…what's the big deal?
I think the filmmakers really thought this movie was scary…..it wasn't. Despite their addition of loud music prefacing "SOMETHING SCARY" every time the camera zooms in on something (like, for example, the edge of a menacing bed skirt), I never felt convinced that anyone old enough to buy their own ticket for this movie could possibly be frightened by it. Sophomoric scare attempts include a shaking washing machine and load noises, loud noises by themselves for no apparent reason, and close-ups of Neal looking at the bed with loud noises. Noticing a trend here?
THEN ALL THE SUDDEN EVERYTHING CHANGED!
For over an hour we sit back and wonder why this movie isn't rated PG-13 or even just PG. Then, after years of going hungry under the bed, the monster suddenly decides to show Neal's family and the audience that it is, in fact, not at all bound to the bed! Neal and Paulie are next door when the creature arrives and twists off the neighbor kid's head in a gloriously gory display. There's that R-rating we came for! When they run back home it follows them and tears their dad's head apart like a food processor. You hear that? It just followed them! Why the Hell did it just stay under the bed all these years? We went from a lame movie starring a rubber claw under a bed with loud music and no scares to a gore-slathered, slimy creature romp. The monster itself is actually pretty damned cool looking and the special effects are up to snuff as well. It looks like an inbred, disfigured Moorlock covered in snot.
Why on Earth the director waited so long to reveal this creature, the action and the gore is beyond me because all of the exposition leading up to this was completely empty and the other characters--the parents, the neighbors, some random love interest that never goes anywhere--really never offered anything to the story, which never made any sense to begin with beyond the simple fact that inexplicably there is a child-hungry monster under Paulie's bed.
If things weren't random enough yet, the monster actually fashions a hunter's rope snare, traps Paulie like an animal and drags him into the under-the-bed slimy Netherworld! So, just like in Poltergeist II (1986), Neal ties a rope around his waist and goes after him armed with a flashlight trident. I can't even believe what I'm writing right now! WTF is going on in this movie? Were the writers all high? When they come back to--ummmm…reality I guess--the monster now literally has the ability to teleport before our eyes like Nightcrawler in X-Men. Hooray consistency! Then Neal is about to lose a fight against our under-the-bed teleporting Netherworld snot monster when he discovers that his dead mother's ashes are its one weakness. Yeah! He throws his mother's ashes on the monster and that's what kills it!
After a slow, confusing start this film eventually catapults its audience into a tumultuous spin cycle of bonkers gore, creature effects and action which--despite making no sense whatsoever--make the whole experience worth the price of admission. In fact, the last 20 minutes were so off-the-wall entertaining that I don't regret buying this at all. Yes it's very dumb. But it's the kind of dumb I want to share with friends with an improvised drinking game.
Enjoy the madness.