Friday, July 19, 2013

A monster UNDER THE BED? Yes--and he's a scary one in Steven C. Miller's fright flick.

The bed as a gateway to hell? I suspect many of us have symbolically discovered that this is so, but in UNDER THE BED, the new scary-monster-movie from Steven C. Miller, that entrance lies literally below the bed. I am probably giving away too much already, but since Mr. Miller is content to keep his primary scares under wraps for quite awhile, this should clue like-minded audiences into the fact that the film does indeed grow more action-prone and special-effects laden as it reaches its rather bizarre conclusion.

The filmmaker, pictured at left, begins with a reunion of sorts and an exquisitely realized sense of dread. A frightened-to-near-crazed older brother, Neal (Jonny Weston, below), is reunited after some time with his sweet younger sibling, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith, kneeling, further below), his generally unhelpful father, and a new stepmother (his own having died in circumstances about which we learn only dribs and drabs). Note Neal's entrance into the house, handled quietly and very effectively. The filmmaker's budget was no doubt a small one, but he has put it to good use with a screenplay by Eric Stolze, which, if it isn't all that informative nor comprehensive, is at least smart enough to keep us hooked and a tad unhinged.

The dialog is always serviceable, and the events slowly coalesce into increasing menace. The direction is quite good, too, making the most of that small budget in production design, technical details, good performances from the entire cast, and finally some special effects that may be, overall, on the cheap side but that do the job at hand remarkably well.

On the minus side, some questions do arise that are never intelligently answered: How come the adults on hand don't hear all the noise coming from the kids' room? Just how powerful is this creature? What and what not can he do on his own? And exactly what did happen with stepmom and her foray into the garage-cum-laundry room?

We never get answers, but also, fortunately, we never get bored because Miller keeps little scares happen-ing at a good clip, before bringing out the big ones and allowing that creature to come to full-on life and begin his reign of death.

Who it kills and how -- neither kids nor parents are safe -- are certainly enough to have gotten the film an "R" rating (I don't recall seeing any rating for this movie).

Performances are about all they can be, given the state of the screenplay and the need to get on with the grizzly gore. Weston and Griffith make properly scared and loving bothers; Peter Holden proves a useless dad and Musetta Vander a warm stepmother.

As the would-be girlfriend, Kelcie Stranahan (above) is pretty and underused, while Ivan Djurovic's model-gorgeous good looks are completely covered up in the role of the Creature.

Under the Bed, from XLrator Media and running 87 minutes, opened theatrically yesterday, July 18. The horror film has also been playing on VOD since July 3 and has a DVD coming out on July 30. I'm checking now for a list of theatrical playdates -- which I'll post as soon as they arrive. Sorry to get these up so tardily, but here are the theaters, a bit after the fact: on July 18 only at Laemmle's No Ho in Los Angeles;  July 19 only at the Clinton Street Theater Portland; July 19 and 20 only at the Zeigeist in New Orleans; and July 20 only at Facets in Chicago.

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