Truly questioning the menacing conflicts that appear to be plaguing families and their emotional quarrels can be particularly disheartening for many people, particularly teens who are struggling with problems they feel they can’t approach their parents with. That’s certainly true with the lead protagonist, Neal Hausman, in the horror film ‘Under the Bed,’ which is set to be released on DVD in New York on Tuesday. While coping with internal and literal demons that have been plaguing his sanity and life for several years, Neal must also contend with protecting his younger brother while proving to their father and the community that his fears aren’t as far-fetched as they seem.
‘Under the Bed’ follows Neal (Jonny Weston), a troubled teen who returns home to his father, Terry (Peter Holden), younger brother, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) and a new step-mother he’s never met, Angela (Musetta Vander). Neal somewhat reluctantly comes home after living with his aunt during a forced two-year exile. He doesn’t know how to act around Terry, who felt his older son needed time to recover after his mother died in a house fire. Neal reveals to Paulie that their mother was killed while trying to protect him from the monster living under his bed, which threatened him every night when he tried to sleep. When Paulie reveals that he’s been encountering the same monster while his older brother was away, the two boys try whatever they can to finally defeat the monster.
But the boys’ determination to defeat the monster, and their hesitance to reveal what’s actually going on to Terry and Angela, leads their father to having a breakdown, and their stepmother fearing her newly acquainted step-son. While Neal and Paulie work together to try and fight the nocturnal menace, their parents are taking desperate measures to get the family back to normal. With no support from their parents, the brothers have nothing to rely on but each other and their unwavering courage.
With ‘Under the Bed,’ director Steven C. Miller effortlessly created an eerie, unsettling narrative that naturally reflects on the popular cheesy demon horror films from the 1980s. Instead of relying on modern technology to elicit panic among Neal and Paulie, and how social media can effectively break down their emotions and rational thinking, the director successfully used the Hausman family’s belongings, memories and perceptions of the house to drive their fear forward.
Cinematographer Joseph White creatively used dark shades and coloring throughout the house, particularly at night, to reemphasize the brothers’ uncertainty of what’s lurking in their bedroom, and how they can truly protect themselves. The shading of the corners of their room, as well as Paulie’s bed, casts suspicious doubt over whether or not the boys really know how to successfully kill the monster without their father finding out what’s going on.
The dark, menacing nature of the room that holds negative recollections for the Hausman brothers is skillfully paralleled against the bright deposition White produced while they’re squaring off against their father and step-mother. From the surprise party Angela throws for Neal when he returns home, to the afternoon Terry picks Paulie up from school after he suffers from a terrifying dream in his theater class, the cinematographer presented the two boys in a menacing light as they try to rationalize their behavior to their father. The bright glow of sunlight that surrounds the brothers during their squabbles with their parents forces them to question if they truly have a reason to fear the dark, and if the monster they believe to be seeing at night is real.
While ‘Under the Bed’s screenwriter, Eric Stolze, deserves credit for trying to craft a strong, conflicting family dynamic between the Hausmans, including Neal’s resentment over his father remarrying a woman he thinks is domineering, the horror film’s story unfortunately fails to offer a thorough explanation on the reasoning behind the monster targeting Neal and Paulie. Neal is showcased as being determined to finally stop the monster, especially after hearing it’s also frightening Paulie, but the lack of explanation of why it’s in the brothers’ room and only targeting them leaves the story feeling unfulfilled. Neal and Paulie’s intention of working together to protect themselves is clear, but Stolze’s lack of explaining the monsters’ motivations and original connection to the family makes the plot fell unfulfilled.
With the emotionally and visually grueling ‘Under the Bed,’ Miller created an unnerving, unsettling narrative that not only reflects on and highlights the blood, gore and fear that builds when two unlikely protagonists set out to defeat a looming, seemingly terrifying demon that’s determined to bring out the worst in them. The filmmaker commendably tried to create a terrifying horror film that not only relied on the physical scares brought on by its looming monster, but also through the emotional turmoil its presence has on an unsuspecting family. While Stolze’s lack of clarifying the monsters’ motivations in targeting the Hausman family makes the story unfulfilled, White’s ominous cinematography surrounding the brothers forces them to question if they truly have a reason to fear the dark.