Deathbed (2002)

Rating: C

Dir: Danny Draven
Star: Tanya Dempsey, Brave Matthews, Joe Estevez, Mona Lee Fultz

I must be getting old. The most horrific thing about the bed here, was not that it was possessed by the spirit of a serial killer from the twenties, it was the utterly unacceptable lack of pillows. How can anybody sleep with fewer than three? It also seemed pretty small for two people. Particularly here in Arizona, you need the room, because doing more than brushing fingertips with your sleeping partner is an open invitation to heatstroke. That said, the couple here, photographer Jerry (Matthews) and book illustrator Karen (Dempsey) are doing a fair bit of contributing to global warming themselves, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

They move into the top floor of a converted warehouse run by avuncular caretaker, Art (Estevez). In a long-sealed storage room they find an old, iron frame bed and decide to make use of it. It, meanwhile, decides to make use of them, implanting sexy but increasingly violent thoughts in their minds, which both Karen and Jerry begin to act out. They eventually discover the area was home to a serial killer who strangled seven women and was never caught. But is it too late for them to avoid becoming a modern incarnation of both psycho and victim? While this all comes with a “Stuart Gordon presents…” credit, the degree of his involvement is unclear. Maybe this remake of Death Bed was intended for him to direct at some point?

The performances here are surprisingly decent. Matthews looks like a low-rent version of Casper Van Dien, but he and Dempsey have good chemistry and feel like a real couple. Given the salacious content though, might have been better off going with an actress more comfortable with nudity? It’s kinda obvious Dempsey is not. Estevez is fun to watch, in the kind of role which works well for him. On the other hand, the script is undercooked. The audience more or less knows from the beginning what’s going on, so there’s not a sufficient sense of development. You spend 90% of the time waiting for the characters to catch up, and it isn’t at all hard to figure out things will finish in Jerry trying to kill Karen.

It does end in quite an energetic and gory fashion, providing a downbeat ending that does feel somewhat Gordon-esque. If there’s a moral here, it appears to be that S&M games are a gateway drug to serial slaughter, which might be a little moralistic for some. You can certainly argue for the position this is not a killer mattress movie, and I wouldn’t argue. However, given such a small field for the sub-sub-subgenre of horror films with haunted objects (furniture division, bedroom category), I’m inclined to err on the side of inclusivity. I do wonder what it might have been like with Gordon at the helm, perhaps starring Barbara Crampton. Likely more memorable than this low-budget slice of just about competence.