You get a lot of horror movies that are based around the same central antagonist (more or less): vampires, serial killers, ghosts and zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. But beyond that, and something that makes horror so great, is a plethora of other sub-categories that people know and love. For instance I have a few a friends who are just crazy about scarecrow horror. Sharks, clowns, animals. All ripe for the picking. And this go round, we get the severely under-utilized boogeyman.
The boogeyman seems like a no brainer when it comes to horror. Monster who lives in the closet or under the bed who terrorizes children at night. Despite the easy set up, the Man has rarely been done right in movies. The largest attempt, Boogeyman, and it’s subsequent sequels seem to consistently fall short of hitting the mark. Most of the time, the concept is handled best by kids movies, such as Monsters Inc., Don’t Look Under the Bed, or Rise of the Guardians.
With Under the Bed, Steven C. Miller and Eric Stolze try to blend some of the warm-hearted innocence of the kids movies with the dark and gritty overlay of a more adult horror movie. The story focuses around Neal (Jonny Weston) and his little brother Paulie who must face their fears and fight a creature who torments them through the shadows of their house.
It’s well over twenty minutes rolling before we get our first “scare” and at first the movie seems to be headed in the direction of straight up kid’s horror flick. Which is not a bad thing, some of my favorite genre movies were made for families and kids i.e. Gremlins and Monster Squad. For a while the creep out moments are pretty juvenile. Things like creaking doors, shaking washing machines and laundry baskets that move on their own. Coupled with the light hearted banter of the brothers and the trickster antics of young Paulie, it’s easy to ready yourself for a light hearted horror movie, suitable for The CW or ABC Family. Hell, it even has the young attractive cast that usually ride along with those movies.
Then, almost jarringly, the movie tends to blindside you with surprisingly harsh and tense family moments where curse words are thrown around sparingly and excessively gory sprints. The boys dad seems intensely critical for almost no reason and lashes out angrily numerous times in the movie. At one point he even locks the boys in their room and makes them knock on the door if they want to go the bathroom. A few moments like this are wildly out of place and result in head scratching confusion. Without much of an ease, they throw in the boogeyman, introducing the creature with more childlike pop-up horror. The rest of movie continues like this, a rollercoaster of horror hijinks and then overly harsh creature feature time, as if it’s over correcting itself over and over again. Because of this constant back and forth, the movie becomes disjointed and never quite finds its groove.
Steven C. Miller helmed the project and is certainly an up-and-comer in the field. With the fan favorites of Silent Night and Automaton Tranfusion under his belt, he has definitely shown he knows how to work the genre. I think part of his strong direction is a lot of what made this movie a complete miss. A number of the scary moments end up being genuinely frightening and the attempt at 80’s family fright fest is noticeable, albeit off. Eric Stolze handled the script and his other big credit is a family film entitled I Love Shakey. As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s easy to imagine the movie as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. “Hey, you got some horror in my family movie…And you got some family movie in my horror film.”
The acting is above average for a straight to dvd horror movie. Jonny Weston, who pulled lead duties in the more largely advertised Chasing Mavericks, plays an older brother that actually has a lot of resemblance to Corey Haim in The Lost Boys. Gattlin Griffith even holds his own as the younger Paulie and the most forced lines end up coming from both the adults.
By the end of the movie, it loses itself in hypothetical boogeyman theoretical mumbo jumbo that just seems silly and a rushed love interest. Also, they start dumping so much fog into the movie it would make The Fog jealous. The Boogeyman ends up looking pretty horrific, a mix of Freddy Krueger and The Creeper, but even his appearance is a stark contrast to the rest of the seemingly light movie.
Overall, Under the Bed isn’t a bad movie. It’s far more watchable than a lot of other horror movies (cough, Blood Runs Cold, cough) but it ends up missing it’s mark. Steven Miller does the best he can with the script but his brutal offerings end up creating a strange final product when mixed with family friendly tinged undertones. It ends up as a promising but ultimately disappointing addition to the boogeyman sub genre.