Originally titled Bed of the Dead (a much more appropriate title), The Dwelling is a film built up around a unique and fun concept that takes itself a little too seriously and winds up being more convoluted than it ever needed to be.
The Dwelling is an ultimately sharp looking film after its opening sequence - a scene that feels odd and off tone from the rest of the feature. Cinematographer turned director, Jeff Maher, handles his first directorial outing with mixed results. There are a few gorgeous shots throughout that represent a promising cinematographer, however his directing decisions at times have a diminishing effect on the positives. The Dwelling suffers from a lack of logic within its time-bending plotline, and Maher's direction leaves the film without an identity.
Taking a wild weekend at a "sex club,” four young adults enter room 18 to have a little fun, but once they climb on top of the bed inside, they realize they're trapped. The premise of The Dwelling is so creative and seems to possess a ton of entertainment potential. However, the things that keep them from leaving the bed are certainly not what I imagined (especially from the poster art), so when the kills occur they become repetitious incredibly quick. Not only that, but the logics of the bed’s powers isn't explained to the full extent. We witness a bottle shattering but reconstructing itself moments later - yet this kind of thing never occurs again. The bed holds grudges against people that touch it and have committed a serious wrong in their life, so an extension of the four characters backstories would have been a nice accessory to them being slayed with no information. The film is all over the place with its storytelling, and while instances make sense after a bit of thought, some remain a puzzle left unsolved.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters feel insincere, and their dialogue needs some tightening occasionally; the delivery doesn't help its cause. Colin Price can easily receive the highest praise for his character Virgil. While still a little wonky at times, his acting revealed more about his character than any other. Our four leads: Sandy (Alysa King), Nancy (Gwenlyn Cumyn), Fred (George Krissa), and Ren (Dennis Andres) are all representing a variety of character development with two of them getting almost none beyond a few lines of dialogue. Sandy and Nancy have the most in depth backstory, but the fact of the matter remains that these characters aren't the easiest to relate to. Self centered, easily manipulated, and all around difficult to care for, the characters here are certainly not the beacon of stability for The Dwelling.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composer Steph Copeland provides a darkly sinister score that accelerates the runtime with an overly tense atmosphere. Copeland's score is perfect for the film presented to us, creating an unnerving surrounding for our characters to sit through. The sound design, like most of the film, is a little mixed, however when it comes through it does with good measure, creating a horrifying setting. When it doesn't though, things can get a little awkward in comparison with the serious tone the film gives off, such as the sharp screams that occur in occasional hallucinations. The great score outweighs the minor issues with the sound design and make this one of the greatest qualities of The Dwelling experience.
The film focuses heavily on the woodwork of the bed frame and while it is a neat design, the focus didn't need to go towards it so often. There's only one moment where we see a horrific demonic creature, and I believe it was practical, but even if it was in fact CGI, its brief appearance is a welcome change from the hidden beings. The gore effects are properly gruesome, however the brutality of the deaths could have been heightened to a whole other level to make the experience a lot more memorable and sickeningly fun. Beyond these effects, there's a few "ghost" flashes that occur throughout, and they're not particularly scary and more staggering in their appearance… less of those and more monsters would have been welcome.
A killer bed? Count me in. The Dwelling carries a huge advantage of having a really entertaining and original premise, however Maher and Callahan took the concept a little too literal. They manage to remove all of the fun and leave us with a confused narrative that hypnotizes the viewer into thinking there may be more hidden away… somewhere.