Screamfest 2012 Movie Review – UNDER THE BED

Cast: Jonny Weston, Gattlin Griffith, Peter Holden  

Writer: Eric Stolze  

Director: Steven C. Miller

This past Tuesday, Screamfest presented Steven C Miller’s UNDER THE BED to a packed house.  While aware of Miller’s previous work THE AGGRESSION SCALE and his next project, SILENT NIGHT, I really didn’t know what to expect with this screening.  Before the film started, Mr. Miller was brought up to say a few words and stated this was his love letter to genre films of the 80s like GOONIES and E.T.  Okay, Sir.  We’ll see about that!

The synopsis of the film goes something like this: Neal Hausman (Jonny Weston) returns home after 2 years of living with his Aunt.  His relationship with his father (Peter Holden) is strained since the loss of his mother due to arson.  The fire in question burned down their home and was started by none other than young Neal. His father (who resembles a dickish Zach Galifanakis) has since remarried to Neal’s disapproval.  Hausman reunites with his younger brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) only to find that the boy is now the target of a monster that lives under the bed. The monster in question ends up being the reason Neal set fire to his home to begin with. The two are ultimately on their own in surviving the onslaught of the beast at night while doing their best to get through each sleep deprived day.

One of the things that stood out for me about UNDER THE BED was the attention paid to the two main characters of Neal and Paulie.  This character development is key in the success of the movie and it works very well.  I’m pretty sure most of us out there related to the unrelenting fear of what lurks under the bed at one point in our childhood.  There’s a moment in the film where Paulie shows Neal how he gets into bed, proceeding to make a running start and then leaping onto the mattress. I’ll admit it, this was quite similar to my own method for a year of my childhood growing up.

Another aspect of the story that took it up a notch was the theory of the beast and why it continued it’s assault on the boys each night.  As I stated above, this movie plays on those simple fears we can all relate to from our own childhood.  Eric Stolze added an interesting slant on this monster tale by bringing in the concept that it eats the dead skin cells children shed at night while asleep. Once its appetite is no longer pleased with this little treat, it moves onto meatier morsels (ie: YOUR CHILDREN!). Plus, I suppose I’d be a fool if I forgot to give props to the team for making a foldaway bed menacing and creepy.

Oh, and then there’s the actual monster!

Empathetic to the boys and their struggle with the beast under the bed, I was immediately hooked and invested in the plot.  Not much character development, however, went into that of the parents.  I’m not sure if the dad was supposed to come off as quite an unrelenting asshole or if his new wife’s character was to be as vacant as she was through the first 2 acts of the film, but it didn’t quite matter to me.  What drove the story and the film was the steady lead up to the final act where the boys and monster have their ultimate showdown.

What was reminiscent of the Amblin films of the 80s, was soon mauled into a bloody onslaught in the final act.  And sure, the performance of Musetta Vander as Angela Hausman seemed a bit too forced at times but I won’t hold it against the film.  The film switched gears here from humorous and creepy and proceeded into a full on monster movie bloodbath!

For a film that was shot in 15 days, credit must be given to the cast and to Miller for delivering a film that looked and felt way above the budget they alluded to having.  And while the third act seemed a bit over the top and slightly silly, it still worked overall.  As the credits rolled, I had to smile.  Amidst all the remakes, sequels and cookie cutter formulaic crap out there, Steven C Miller and Eric Stolze brought us an original movie reminiscent of the films we grew up on.  It hugs you with that comforting nostalia and then violently rips your silly little face off.

The Los Angeles Screamfest Horror Film Festival is still happening folks!  Go here for all the festival details!

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