Steven C. Miller’s Under The Bed does not try and re-invent genre horror. It updates fear of what lies in the dark under a child’s bed for twenty-first century audiences, in an engaging and stylish manner. Under The Bed manages to avoid many pitfalls common to current horror films, deftly telling a suspenseful and scary story with two young boys as main protagonists in a battle with forces of darkness.
As a troubled teenager with a dark incident in his past, Neal Hausman (Jonny Weston) comes back to join his family after staying with his aunt the past two years. Neal is welcomed with open arms by his much younger brother, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith). The two have a close bond, as both share a terrible secret about their bedroom. Not so welcoming to Neal are the brothers’ dad, Terry Hausman (Peter Holden), and their new stepmother, Angela.
The boys’ actual mother died in a mysterious fire two years prior, which immediately prompted Neal to be sent away from family. Opening act set up builds the entire groundwork for psychological discord within the family, as Terry is a temperamental father prone to loud outbursts. The script is sharply clever in setting up the right emotional environment before we actually glimpse a monster.
The crux of the story is that a gruesome creature lives under Paulie’s bed, which first hassled Neal before he left home, now terrorizing Paulie for two years. The idea sounds hokey on the surface, but story and direction are so convincing, believability is central tosuccess. Like any good horror movie, the monster follows an explicit set of rules in its reign of terror. It can’t attack the boys when lights go out. If the boys remain absolutely quiet in bed, the monster remains subdued for the night. Most importantly, the hideous abnormality has an uncanny ability to disappear whenever their parents show up to find out what is happening.
Neal and Paulie struggle to sleep most evenings and this begins to affect them during the day. It must be said that both Weston and Griffith give wonderful performances in their roles, earnestly playing frightened young children that have no support from their parents or other adults. Griffith turns in a remarkable performance as a child actor. Under The Bed plays everything deadly seriously and Griffith could have sunk the entire movie if he had not been up totask.
The movie gets some mileage out of the question of whether sleep deprivation is causing hallucinations in the boys, or if this is really a monster living under a bed. Tight plotting and an intricate script produce a clever story arc, if not very original in the end.
If one looks beyond the unimaginative title, there is much to like here. Under The Bed‘s focus on two young boys battling evil is a refreshing blast of nostalgia from an earlier and simpler era of horror cinema. While the film does get quite violent and has dark undertones, its well-crafted story feels like a lost 1980’s gem.
Genre fans will find much to enjoy about Under The Bed, as every phase of a good horror film is imbued into its structure. From fine acting performances by the main cast to careful direction by Steven C. Miller, Under The Bed is a highly polished gem. It is easily one of the most refined films from the independent horror circuit in recent years. In a bygone era, Hollywood would have released it.
Under The Bed has been digitally shot using RED cameras and looks fabulous in 1080P on Blu-ray. The main feature runs 87 minutes on a BD-25. XLrator Media has given the independent production a fine technical presentation in its scope aspect ratio of 2.39:1.
Encoded in AVC, video compression is largely free of serious artifacts. Some slight banding comes into play, but the largely pristine clarity of the video has a vivid level of depth and detail. Unfiltered video displays a high degree of fine-object detail, down to pores on each actor. Minor aliasing creeps into a few scenes, while the transfer has been left untouched by detrimental processing.
Like most movies shot with RED cameras, Under The Bed exhibits a razor-sharp image with a stunning lack of noise, even in darker shots. The excellent contrast rarely strays from strong black levels, enabling superior shadow delineation. Opposing the trend toward a cooler color palette for the horror genre in recent years, color timing remains comfortably balanced and slightly warm.
The video quality simply can’t be faulted in any significant category. On par with the latest Hollywood thrillers, this low-budget production is a stunner.
Under The Bed‘s soundtrack is a fairly standard surround entry, highlighting how effective a spacious mix can be used in aiding atmosphere. Most importantly, presence of the monster is readily heard by the viewer, rather than seen on the screen, a brilliant decision. Presented in a strong 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack, Under The Bed uses the entire soundstage to immerse the viewer in the world of Neal and Paulie as they struggle against the monster. Ryan Dodson’s score is a competent but mostly generic effort, although dialogue is intelligible and blended well with the frequent usage of violent sound effects.
XLrator Media has included subtitles of the English SDH variety, presented in a white font that resides within the framing of the scope presentation.
This Blu-ray edition is not up to snuff with special features. Aside from a few paltry trailers, nothing is included.
Under The Bed Trailer (01:53 in HD)
Various Trailers (04:34 in HD) – Three skippable trailers precede the main menu: Saturday Morning Mystery, Inbred, American Mary.
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