Sunday, January 8, 2017

Under the Bed (Appian Way, Radar Pictures, Sobe Brooke Studios, 2017)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night I ended up watching two Lifetime TV-movies, now that the channel has stopped running the sentimental schlock it puts on during December and reverted to the sinister thrillers I enjoy. The first was billed as a “world premiere” of something called Under the Bed, and it turned out to be exactly that: Callie Monroe (Hallie New), a globe-trotting newscaster whose proudest achievement is having scaled Mount Kilimanjaro (she begins to sound like the Julia Roberts character in Eat, Pray, Love), has just broken up with fiancé Brad Volger (Ryan O’Nan) even though she’d already bought the wedding dress and sent out invitations to the ceremony. What she doesn’t know — though we do — is that somehow she has attracted a stalker (Pat Healy) who, not content to follow her around throughout her life routine, has managed to ensconce himself inside her home and is literally living under her bed, occasionally emerging when she’s not at home to take a mysterious bite out of an apple in her fruit bowl or drink some of her smoothie, which seems to be his only way of sustaining himself since he’s never shown actually leaving except, on occasion, to follow her around. He’s also filming her entire life on his smartphone, and writer/director Daniel Myrick (whose most famous previous credit is The Blair Witch Project, another story involving eavesdropping and amateur video) spends virtually the entire movie cutting between normally filmed footage involving her regular life and Jerkicam footage supposedly representing the video her stalker is taking of her.

While all this is going on Callie is working on a freelance news article about a prominent politician who’s having an affair, and she’s also dealing with the aftermath of her breakup with Brad by chatting online with a mystery admirer (whose avatar is an owl) who is, of course, her stalker. She also goes ahead with a birthday party she had planned while she and Brad were still “an item,” mainly because Brad had already paid for the food and drink, and at the party Brad shows up. He’s previously been there to pick up his mail, and he gazed longingly at a photo of him and Callie taken while they were on vacation together — indicating that he now realizes he made a mistake dumping her and wants to get her back — only the mystery stalker comes around after him and steps on the photo, grinding the glass in its frame to dust and leaving Callie convinced that Brad now hates her. Nonetheless, when he turns up at the party and demands a chance to talk to her, she takes him to her bedroom to get them away from the guests — and proximity and their still-strong attraction work their magic and they have sex while the stalker is still under her bed! Then they fall asleep in each other’s arms and stay that way until Callie is awakened by the sound of a gunshot, and when she wakes up there’s a different man with her in bed — her stalker shot Brad and assumed his place next to her. The stalker also takes out Callie’s best friend, Ronnie Ditmore (Alexis Krause), when she shows up at Callie’s place trying to figure out what’s going on and he sneaks up behind her and strangles her with a cord of some kind. Even before that the stalker has killed Callie’s dog Freddy because the pooch has sniffed him out; he chillingly seals him in a plastic trash bag and buries him alive in the back yard in a sequence that makes it clear Myrick has seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. And that isn’t the only Hitchcock knock-off in this movie: of course he can’t resist stalking Callie in her shower and filming her through the glass shower door — though he doesn’t kill her — and even though Callie’s shower has a glass sliding door instead of a ringed curtain, one can’t help but be reminded of Psycho. The stalker is basically your Lovesick Sicko 101, convinced that he and Callie are soulmates even though he met her only once, at a restaurant — she doesn’t remember him and our only clue is a stray bit of dialogue in which he says that from the moment he saw her he knew she was The One for him.

The basic problem with this movie is that, even though the credits claim it was “Inspired by a True Story,” the whole idea of two people interacting in a confined space with one of them being unaware that the other is there is a more suitable premise for comedy than drama. Indeed, at one point I was laughing my head off at a sequence Myrick clearly intended as heart-stopping horror! It also doesn’t help that Myrick, whose Blair Witch Project famously ended with the video supposedly being shot by its amateur characters suddenly stopping in mid-shot — representing that the Blair Witch killed them all — decided to give this film an unhappy ending as well: Callie Monroe, having managed to save her mother (Beverly D’Angelo, an old pro who as usual in these productions shoves the younger performers aside and gives them an acting lesson they’ll hopefully never forget) from being killed by her psycho stalker, has changed her hair from blonde to black and moved out of her nice home into an apartment building so heavily “secured” it looks like she, not her stalker, is the one in prison — only she receives a home-recorded DVD in her mail and, instead of it being from her mom, it’s edited highlights from the footage her stalker took of her in the main part of the movie, including his murder of the nosy neighbor Dennis (David Nieman) who threatened to expose him. Under the Bed isn’t even one of those Lifetime movies that overcomes a fundamentally silly premise; the fundamentally silly premise is so risible (even if it was “inspired” by something that really happened!) that for all Myrick’s clear skill at shocking the audience (albeit hampered by his film being shown on a commercial cable channel and his mood-building constantly being interrupted by the commercials — maybe this film would play more like what Myrick clearly intended on a big screen with no breaks), it’s hard to keep yourself from laughing during its running time!