Under The Bed is the new film from independent director Stephen C. Miller. After reportedly suffering in the studio system from delayed productions and politics he has returned to his roots with an low-budget horror that is aimed at an older teenage market with nods to the creature features of the 1980's.
The film centres around two brothers Neal (Jonny Weston) and the younger Paulie (Gattlin Griffin). Neal has been away for two years staying with an aunt following an horrific event that is only hinted at early on. What we do know is that it involved a house fire and death of the boys' mother. Returning to the family home Neal's less than sympathetic father Terry (Peter Holden) tries to draw a line under previous events insisting that nothing is wrong and with new wife Angela (Musetta Vander) they ignore Neal's concerns regarding his brother.
It transpires that for years Neal was plagued by a sinister and malevolent presence under his bed each night as darkness fell. Since he moved away Paulie has been staying in the same room and is now suffering from similar and occasionally more intense problems. The brothers now unite to fight the monster under the bed in any way they can while still battling their non-believing parents.
The greatest strength of Under The Bed is in the performances and relationship of the the two leads. Both Weston and Gattlin are absolutely convincing as siblings in fear of the same nightmarish creature that is causing them to become withdrawn and alienated from all those around them. The unintentional problem caused by this centralised focus is that the other characters simply become stereotypical and hollow by comparison and none are in the least bit memorable. The father's role seems limited largely to shouting at his sons and he is really the main antagonist for much of the film.
This leads to another problem. There are two films here vying for dominance. Initially what we have is something more akin to a psychologically thriller. The monster itself is barely seen and hinted at more than anything else leaving the audience to wonder is it all just a nightmare created in the boys imaginations. In the latter part of the film we have more of a traditional monster movie with gruesome prosthetics and more than a little gore. It feels like the writer Eric Stolze and Miller had almost too many ideas and tried to squeeze as many in as possible. They create some original and interesting mythology surrounding dead human skin cells but this becomes forgotten when the creature begins it's rampage. The ending was also a little underwhelming and seemed a little rushed.
There was probably enough ideas here for a series of films or perhaps more monsters and maybe there will be a sequel but from a film that initially promised so much it was a little disappointing in the final act. This could have been so much more than just a Friday night popcorn horror film and there is enough here to suggest that Miller will hit the mark sooner rather than later. Worth watching if it's on and there's nothing else around but Under The Bed will ultimately leave you a little frustrated.