A historical prologue establishes that a few centuries ago, murderers were hung from the branches of a tree and disembowelled … then, c 1910, the tree was cut down and the wood used to make an empire-sized four-poster bed which, in the present day, has found a home in Room 18 of a downtown sex-club-cum-motel (indeed, cum-motel is pretty much exactly what it was). As Virgil (Colin Price), a cop topically disgraced after shooting a black kid, looks around the bizarre crime scene Room 18 has become, flashbacks follow a quartet of youngish swingers who have had a terminally bad scene on the bed a few hours earlier.
Bed of the Dead seems to defuse its suspense potential early on, in that the foursome who suffer supernatural visitations on the haunted bed are dead in the narrative present as Virgil delves into mysteries (other bad things have happened in the room and several of the victims have their own guilty secrets) connected with the massacre. However, at mid-point there’s a clever development which casts doubt on the doom that on descends on Sandy (Alysa King) and Nancy (Gwenlyn Cumyn), the longest-surviving members of the party, who are trapped on the bed the way characters in other recent horror films have been trapped on a beach (The Sand) or in a shark cage (47 Meters Down). There’s a dim echo of that very strange 1977 picture Death Bed The Bed That Eats in the modus operandi of the vengeance-seeking bed, which presents guilty parties (child-killing drunk driver, sexist whose internet posting drove a girl to suicide, etc) with appropriate visions and then visits gruesome physical injuries on them, including another gut-tumbling and a very uncomfortable bone-snapping … but there’s a psychological angle to the torment too, playing on the fact that everyone in the film (including the hard-drinking cop hero) has just cause to feel horribly guilty and deserving of punishment.
Written by Cody Calahan (of the Antisocial films, The Drownsman and Let Her Out) and debuting director Jeff Maher, this is an entry in a recent wave of small-scale, slightly retro Canadian horrors, mixing horrid physical effects with tormented character study. It may be a little too neat in its checking-off of everyone’s plot-point secret shame – without spending much time on why they all seem to think it’s a good idea to have a four-way (as it happens abortive) in a haunted sex club. Characterisation here just serves the premise,which means no one gets much of an acting showcase – King and Cumyn come off best in the moments when they’re just stuck on the bed together, and Price emotes earnestly as the driven cop who breaks the case in an ironic, not-unexpected fashion. A coda suggests a Bed of the Dead franchise is a possibility.