The Dwelling (2016)

Rating: C+

Dir: Jeff Maher
Star: Colin Price, Alysa King, Gwenlyn Cumyn, Dennis Andres
a.k.a. Bed of the Dead

A fire at a sex-club leaves behind five corpses, and brings alcoholic detective Virgil (Price) onto the scene. Things turn weird, as the cause of death in some cases is not smoke inhalation or burns – it’s things like disembowelment. We flash back to meet two couples, going to a sex-club because it’s Ren’s (Cumyn) birthday. He’s hoping for some nice swinging action, but this is stymied when he discovers no rooms are free. Well, except for #18, and that one is… unavailable. He eventually convinces the receptionist to give it to him and his party, but after the quartet climb onto the large, antique bed, it’s not long before things start to go considerably more wrong.

Thanks to a prologue, the audience know the bed is the problem. It was made of wood from a tree, watered by human sacrificial blood, and… Well, while the movie is vague on detail, it appears something cult-related imbued it with a very particular set of skills. One victim gets dragged under the bed. Someone else suffers the disembowelment mentioned above. That leaves two people, playing a real-life version of “The Floor is Lava”. There is hope though, for bizarrely, their phone connects to Detective Virgil, two hours in the future. Once he overcomes his natural scepticism, he may be the only person capable of looking into the bed’s murderous history, figuring out the rules by which it operates, and – just maybe – saving the two bed-mates.

The alternate title makes more sense to me than the original, whose meaning is still opaque. The film is at its best when being simple and straightforward: how do you survive in this situation? However, the script feels a need to tack on a punishment aspect, in that the bed is a vigilante. Yes, you read that right: it’s intent on punishing the guilty for their sins. The problem is that, the resulting need to fill in back stories for just about everyone in the film, takes focus away from the basic survival story. This includes Virgil, whose drinking is the result of guilt following his shooting of a black teenager, after the murder of his girlfriend by another black man.

It’s all definitely a case of too much information. I will say, the lengthy set-up does pay off at the end. Though even here, there’s then an unnecessary coda, that takes away more than it adds on. On the plus side, the effects are good to very good, particularly around the deaths. I would rather have been told about the bed’s history, and the motives of those who crafted it. I’m more interested in its history, such as how it ended up in a cursed room at a sex-club, rather than why Virgil has climbed inside the bottle. It’s rather telling that the bed is less wooden than some of the characters. And probably more fun to be around, truth be told.