There are some movies that tran­scend the tra­di­tion­al “good or bad” notions inher­ent to film crit­i­cism.  This is not because they are above crit­i­cism: instead, this means the film in ques­tion goes so far off in its own direc­tion that con­ven­tion­al meth­ods of crit­i­cism just bounce off it.  Death Bed is such a film, an unusu­al blend of gen­re stylings and art­house touch­es that has been defy­ing the expec­ta­tions of cult movie fans for decades.

DeathB-posDeath Bed throws the audi­ence in at the deep end by intro­duc­ing its cen­tral char­ac­ters in action: a bed with a sin­is­ter his­to­ry draws in a pair of lovers, only to “con­sume” them by pulling them into some sort of inter­di­men­sion­al void with­in the bed where they are dis­solved in bub­bling, acid-like waters.  This is watched help­less­ly by the spir­it of a long-dead artist (Dave Marsh) who help­less­ly watch­es the action from behind one of his own paint­ings.

From there, a nar­ra­tive that is elab­o­rate and free-form by turns rolls out before the view­er.  There’s no point in giv­ing away too much of the plot, as part of the film’s enter­tain­ment val­ue lies in the film’s strange twists and turns, but it’s safe to say that the orig­in of the bed and its his­to­ry are revealed as sev­er­al inter­est­ing char­ac­ters are drawn to it.  It also builds to a mem­o­rable finale that is both sexy and strange all at once.

Death Bed is an uncom­pro­mis­ing piece of work.  From its ini­tial moments, it fol­lows its own strange rhythms. It’s nev­er dull, pri­mar­i­ly because you nev­er know which way its nar­ra­tive will go.  It’s impos­si­ble to pin down the nar­ra­tive to a par­tic­u­lar type of sto­ry, as it con­stant­ly shifts from hor­ror to satire to avant-gardDeathB-01e.  Writer/director George Barry has fash­ioned a film that rec­og­niz­able ele­ments of all three afore­men­tioned gen­res but the way they gel cre­ates an unpre­dictable work that mer­ri­ly slips past con­ven­tion­al def­i­n­i­tions with ease.

Because it’s so strange, there have been many attempts to push Death Bed into the “bad movie” cat­e­go­ry (a lot of this can be traced to a Patton Oswalt stand-up rou­tine that uses the title to reduce the movie to an easy punch­line).  If you’re one of those odi­ous types that likes to “MST3K” a film for being out of the ordi­nary, there’s plen­ty to work with here, from the con­cept to the dream­like style of act­ing to the curve­ball-style shifts in tone.DeathB-02

However, doing so ignores the film’s orig­i­nal­i­ty and gutsi­ness.  Amidst the more overt­ly hor­ri­fic moments, there are bits of stun­ning artsi­ness: the most strik­ing might be the way the bed com­pletes its con­sump­tion of a vic­tim by tele­port­ing her skull into the soil of a near­by field, which sprouts flow­ers from the ground over it.  The film is full of strange yet won­der­ful touch­es like this and if you are will­ing to give your­self over to its off-kil­ter sen­si­bil­i­ty and atmos­phere, you’ll get a movie expe­ri­ence that is com­plete­ly out­side your def­i­n­i­tions of hor­ror, humor or art­house fare.  It’s ide­al view­ing for the wee hours of the morn­ing, when your con­scious mind is a lit­tle more relaxed and open to the unusu­al.

Simply put, Death Bed is a must-see for any patron of out­sider cin­e­ma.  It’s the rare film where you can tru­ly say there is noth­ing else like it out there — and that’s a joy too rare for any self-respect­ing bizarro film buff to pass up.