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Deathbed   C

Full Moon Pictures / Darkwave Films

Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Danny Draven
Writer: John Strysik
Cast: Tanya Dempsey, Brave Matthews, Meagan Mangum, Joe Estevez, Dukey Flyswatter.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

When Karen (Tanya Dempsey) and Jerry (Brave Matthews) move into their new L.A. apartment, they discover an old brass bed that Karen takes a liking to. She's never been much of a participant in the sack, but the bed stimulates her libido and pretty soon their sex becomes more passionate than ever. Of course, the bed has a morbid history involving kinky sex-murders that doesn't bode well for the two young lovers. Like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, the bed begins to take a maddening toll on its inhabitants, leading up to an insanely fun, violent climax that almost makes you forget about the misguided hour preceding it.

It's not like Deathbed isn't trying, though. It wants to be a chilling supernatural tale with a heroine who's forced to deal with the past traumas that have caused her present-day sexual hang-ups. It's just too bad that Karen is such a sketchily written character that it's tough to feel much emotional investment in her plight. Tanya Dempsey, previously seen in Witchouse 3: Demon Fire and Hell Asylum, still does her best with the underwritten material, equally adept at playing the icy seductress and the damaged girl haunted by her past. But the film dismisses serious, potentially affecting subject matter (the sexual molestation of a child is heavy stuff, is it not?) in favor of tired horror-movie conventions, cheap scares, and a climax that descends into wild, gory B-movie absurdity.

And maybe that's what Deathbed should have been trying for all along. Is it supposed to be a freaky, over-the-top shock-horror show or a creepy, character-driven supernatural flick? It seems to be trying for a little of both and it doesn't succeed as either, but, admittedly, it's at its best when going for the boo-scares (yes, I jumped at least twice) and embracing its B-movie nature while forgetting about the more serious aspects of the story. It's fun when it wants to be, but it doesn't have a clue about what to do with the difficult issues that have been brought up.

The DVD from Full Moon Pictures presents Deathbed in anamorphic widescreen format with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and a decent if unremarkable commentary by director Danny Draven, writer John Strysik, and executive producer Stuart Gordon. There's also a good behind-the-scenes documentary, but perhaps the most noteworthy bonus is the complete unrated version of Stuart Gordon's Castle Freak.

While Deathbed is flawed and uneven, I still believe Danny Draven (HorrorVision, Hell Asylum) will make a really good movie sometime soon. He has talent, but the material he's been working with hasn't been too strong. I'm sure he's learned a lot making these movies for Full Moon, but I'm eager to see what results when he doesn't have to concentrate on making Charles Band happy. Good news, though: Draven is now starting to produce and direct his own projects through his company Darkworld Pictures, so maybe his talent will finally be put to good use.

Review published 11.10.2002.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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