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Deathbed (2002)


Starring Tanya Dempsey, Brave Matthews, Joe Estevez, Meagan Mangum, Michael Sonye, Lunden De’Leon, Constance Estevez

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Deathbed begins with horrid “jazz” and murderous S&M on an old iron bed, and it doesn’t really get any better from there. No, that’s not true, it gets a little better, but when the film is structured so that “What happened with the bed in the 1920s” is the central mystery and the film opens with a flashback exposing the entire thing to the audience, it also gets a little annoying as we watch the characters search around for what we already know. Trust the audience much? Nope, didn’t think so.

Karen and Jerry are looking for a new apartment, and they’re about to get a killer deal from Joe Estevez on an abode in a renovated warehouse. This is a horror movie, so they ignore all the little warning signs. Things like a locked room that no one knows anything about what’s inside, or a vision Karen has of a woman being handcuffed to a bed. You’d think someone attuned enough to the paranormal to receive visions would be sensitive to them, and that one of violence might scare you away, but as always, your logic is no good in horror movie land.

Everything seems fine until one night Karen is home alone and she hears a bed creaking and screaming coming from behind the mysterious locked door. Since Jerry is “at work” photographing a model on a bare mattress, Karen enlists the help of Joe Estevez. He busts the door open and inside they find an old iron bed, a gramophone, and a few pillows. Hey! It’s just like that scene we saw at the beginning of the movie! So they’re living in this old killer’s work space! Never saw that coming!

The bed, or the ghost of the killer, sets its sights on Karen, assaulting her with visions of the film’s opening scene. If nothing else, Deathbed is a very inclusive film — anyone who happens in on the movie already in progress will be caught up to speed rapidly by all the reused footage visions Karen experiences. And honestly, they’ll be able to participate in the mystery because they won’t have seen the whole intro scene before! Wow, imagine that! Anyway, the bed gives her visions, she can’t work, she can’t sleep right, but she does develop an affinity for S&M, much to the satisfaction of her husband.

Jerry’s one of those guys that wants to dabble in the kinky end of the spectrum, but pre-ghost assault Karen is more reserved. The first time we see them have sex, it’s visibly painful to Karen and she’s clearly just waiting for Jerry to be done. He seems oblivious to this… so my first thought was that Jerry was an asshole. A moment later he says, “The last thing I’d want to do is hurt you.” Right. Oh, and then he has the nerve to tell her how he’s not satisfied and how she can please him better. Hmm.

Much later in the film, it is revealed that Karen has had some sexual trauma in her past, relating specifically to handcuffs and that kind of loss of control. I thought this might be the moment that Jerry wakes up and changes, but nope, he actually goes into the asshole routine even harder. When in bed that night, he tries to get Karen in the mood by holding her hands up to the bedposts and saying something like, “Remember how your uncle used to handcuff you?” Really? REALLY?

But through all this bullshit, Deathbed does have some really solid moments. I actually got scared once, even to the point of shrieking a bit (and then laughing at myself). It was a jump scare, so it wasn’t anything too crazy, but it was a damn good one. The third act is pretty satisfying and intense as well, unfortunately the rest of the movie is likely to drive most sane people to stop watching long before they get there. Oh well, their loss…? For this hardened B-Movie vet, Deathbed was OK, but it could’ve been much, much better.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie, I’ll be going with Full Moon’s attempt at a Home Alone movie: 1993’s Remote from director Ted Nicolaou! See ya then!

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