Toronto After Dark 2016: ‘Bed of the Dead’ and ‘I Am Not a Serial Killer’

Bed of the Dead (DIR. Jeff Maher)

It’d be easy to call Bed of the Dead wooden, but that would only be a cheap dig.  It is, however, hollow and unbelievably convoluted for a film that should be simple.  It’s a killer bed, for crying out loud.

With his drab debut, director/co-writer Jeff Maher utilizes tired horror tropes towards a seemingly creative premise.  Two horny couples prepare for a foursome and are soon mislead into a night of terror after they discover their antique bed – and the spirits that haunt their hotel room – can murder and distort reality.  One by one, disposable characters are picked off in ways that result in screams and pools of blood.  Meanwhile, in present day, a hard-boiled cop (Colin Price) tries to piece together the accident.

Bed of the Dead plays as a SAW sequel retread (“bad” people pay for their past through an evil night of survival).  The character backstories are heavy-handed which clashes heavily with numerous understated performances.  The one idea going for the film is stationing the entire movie on the bed – that’s fairly inventive.  Unfortunately, Mahr doesn’t believe enough in that approach and sidetracks the story with Price’s hammy cop subplot;  a narrative that uses just about every tiresome crime cliché you can think of.  Bed of the Dead tries to cover up its shortcomings with gory kills, but even those effects look waxy and rough.

The movie is a huge disappointment no matter how you slice it.

Bed of the Dead screens at Toronto After Dark on: 

Monday, October 17 at 9:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre (post screening Q&A with cast/crew)

For more information on the festival, visit the official TAD webpage here.

Buy tickets here.

I Am Not a Serial Killer (DIR. Billy O’Brien)

I Am Not a Serial Killer works best when its working within its minimalist efforts.

The film begins with the fascination and fetishization of death through the eyes of targeted teen John Cleaver (Max Records).  Records, who broke our hearts in Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, severely creeps us out with this twisted yet mannered breakout.  He’s even perfected the use of subtle mannerisms as we watch him carefully peel apart chicken in his bagged lunch.  Working in a mortary has also enabled his interest in grisly bodies.  Everything goes to hell, however, when John discovers a grotesque secret in his town that’s linked to his elderly neighbour Crowley (Christopher Lloyd).

Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not a Serial Killer has all the necessary requirements to be a small-scale character study.  It has even been shot on 16mm to give the film an unfiltered appearance.  When the raw presentation is paired with the natural chemistry between Records and Lloyd (or even Records and his mother played by Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser), O’Brien’s thriller is very convincing.

The decision to branch off in a direction that’s more showy, raises the stakes for the screenplay (a novel-to-film adaptation penned by Christopher Hyde and director O’Brien), but the more I Am Not a Serial Killer steps outside its comfort zone with elaborate special effects and inconsistent personality changes from John, the more blasé the movie becomes.  It slowly loses its special qualities and takes shape as a run-of-the-mill “midnight madness” flick.

Either way, I Am Not a Serial Killer is the type of slow-burning film that makes you feel like you’re being watched.

I Am Not a Serial Killer screens at Toronto After Dark on: 

Monday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

For more information on the festival, visit the official TAD webpage here.

Buy tickets here.


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Toronto After Dark: @TADFilmFest
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