Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Rating: C

Dir: George Barry
Star: Dave Marsh, Julie Ritter, Demene Hall, William Russ

This was the first, and remains the best known, of all killer bed movies. It’s probably the only one that attempts to execute the premise in its truest form. Others tend to have beds that you die around, but this goes full bore into the insanity of a bed which actually consumes those who lie on it, digesting them whole. There’s a sharp division in opinion regarding the results. Some critics, most notably Stephen Thrower, have an unironic appreciation for it. But on the other hand, there’s good reason more people on the IMDb have rated Death Bed 1/10 than any other score. I can see both sides. It’s undeniably imaginative, and lives up to the title surprisingly well. However, it’s clearly the work of a director with no experience, on limited resources, and given the subject matter, is kinda dull.

It owes its cult status entirely to piracy (which must come as a shock to the “Piracy is bad, m’kay?” crowd like Nathan Hanneman). The film was shot in 1972, and Barry then spent four years in post-production. But he was unable to find a distributor, and basically stuck the movie in a cupboard. However, a work print was used for an unauthorized release on video in the UK, then in other countries, and these led to the film acquiring cult status. It was until almost a quarter century later that Barry stumbled across a forum post discussing his film, that he realized anyone had ever seen it. This led to it eventually receiving an official release in 2003, though Barry remained retired from film-making, and died in November 2022 with this his sole work.

The film’s notoriety increased in 2007, when Patton Oswalt did a bit about it on his CD, Werewolves and Lollipops, though he can’t even be bothered to get the title right, adding ‘people’ to the end of it. To be honest, Oswalt comes over as rather bitter, whining that none of the four screenplays he has sold have become movies, but Death Bed did. Y’know, Patton: you could always put your money where your mouth is, and invest your own resources in making the scripts, like Barry did. I have rather more respect for someone like that. Though I must confess, I would be somewhat curious to see Oswalt’s suggested film: Rape Stove: The Stove That Rapes People.

Death Bed begins with sixty seconds of munching sounds over a black screen, though according to Jock Brandis, who was gaffer, did FX for the film, and cameos as a priest who becomes one of the bed’s victims, “There was supposed to be stuff added in there.” This is then followed by the first of four chapters: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Just Desert (sic). We begin with a couple sneaking into the house, and becoming the first victims – along with their picnic – when they decide to make out on the bed. This also introduces us to the “narrator” (Marsh), a painter trapped by the bed, and sent to live in what I guess is another dimension behind a painting on the bedroom wall.

He appears to based on Aubrey Beardsley, and is important, because his connection to the bed allows him to vocalize its thoughts, and also fill in its back story. Though that doesn’t happen until 45 minutes in, I’ll explain it here. A demon took a human woman as a lover, but she didn’t survive their encounter. The demon’s tears went into the mattress, and made it come alive. Over the centuries since, it has drawn sustenance from whoever is unfortunate enough to cross its springs, dissolving them in its stomach acid, a process we see on multiple occasions. Though it is pretty omnivorous, capable of eating just about anything. Which may explain why, at one point, it consumes a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Even demonic furniture gets indigestion, I guess.

The bulk of the “courses” are taken up with three woman, Diane (Hall), Sharon (Ritter), and Suzan, who also arrive at the house. Suzan doesn’t last long, but the others may stand a slightly better chance of survival because Sharon bears a resemblance to the demon’s lover – effectively, the bed’s “mother”, I guess. This gives it pause for thought, though doesn’t stop it chewing down on Diane, dragging her back in with an animated sheet lasso when she tries to crawl out of the room. Really, it has so many talents, you wonder why it hasn’t run for office or whatever. #KillerBed2024 For instance, it teleports the skull of Suzan into the garden, from which flowers immediately sprout. I wish I could do that with my leftovers.

Sharon’s brother (Russ) shows up looking for her, and makes the highly ill-advised decision to stab the bed (!). This results in his hands being reduced to skeletal remains (above), though his lack of emotion at this is… impressive: he acts more like he broke a nail or something. The bed falls asleep – even demonic furniture needs naps, I guess – which lets the artist in the painting communicate with Sharon and tell her the ritual she can carry out to destroy the bed. And… I’ll defer to Wikipedia: “The woman carries out the ritual, which teleports the bed out of the room and revives the bed’s real “mother,” but at the cost of killing the surviving woman. The bed’s mother completes the ritual by having sex with the brother, causing the bed to burst into flames and die.”


All of which probably makes it sound rather more entertaining than it is. You do sense, in things such as the Pepto-Bismol, that Barry – unlike Patton Oswalt – was fully aware of how ridiculous the concept is. However, the film doesn’t buy into that full-time, and it’s the kind of situation where you either go all in or not at all. As is, the jokey elements end up weakening the times when the film wants to be taken seriously. Fair play to Barry though, for not just making a movie, but a film which is one of a kind in many ways.