TBT Review: Uncovering Disney’s ‘Don’t Look Under the Bed’
So, I actually only just recently heard about ‘Don’t Look Under the Bed’ from a friend. I was telling her about the ideas I had for these Halloween articles and talking about movies and shows that scared me as a kid (hint, hint) and she told me about this movie. The plot was one of the more creative ideas I’ve heard in a while and the fact it was banned from tv intrigued me. Yes, it’s a Disney channel made-for-tv movie. Still Disney’s made some intense things before, so I wanted to see it and this is my take on it.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 3.5
I love the plot of this film, it’s just such a clever idea. So here’s the premise; remember your imaginary friends from childhood? Remember being scared of things like the Boogeyman? What if they’re the same? When you grow out of your imaginary friends too soon then they feel angry and abandoned and slowly transform into a boogeyman that hates you – A really great idea for a story and it’s done well here. You almost instantly like the main character Francis Bacon (get it?) McCausland, and is played well by a young Erin Chambers. All of the actors do alright, no oscar-winning performances or anything but good. Larry Houdini (the imaginary friend) does a good job having to play this character a bunch of different ways throughout. He has to seem like something a child would think of and gravitate to. He may be a little annoying to an adult viewer but hey your imaginary friends were probably a little annoying at times for your parents. He has to sell the feeling of being betrayed by this kid growing out of him and the evil, bad thoughts creeping into him.
The film is directed by Kenneth Johnson, creator of the famous Lou Ferrigno “Incredible Hulk” TV series from the 70’s… he also directed “Steel,” so needless to say he’s kind of hit or miss. Here he seems to strike a good balance of some of the bigger ideas and concepts like growing up. It’s done in a way that the kids watching would understand, maybe a little too simple, but it’s made-for-TV movie on the Disney Channel. In the first third the cinematography is a bit obnoxious, like the camera is moving around so much that I wanted to give the DP (Director of Photography) some Ritalin. I think this was done to make the beginning feel less boring for the kids during all the talking and setup. Other than that, visually it’s pretty basic. It’d be easy for someone flipping channels to assume this was a regular series from the time. It gets more aesthetically interesting towards the end but the even then it’s better by made-for-TV standards. Kenneth Johnson is no del Toro, let’s put it that way.
Now apparently this film was banned from TV because of so many complaints from parents that it was too intense for kids. I can see it and if I had seen this as a kid then I’m sure it would have scared me. They do a good job following the old “don’t show the monster too much” rule. In fact the Boogeyman himself only really has two major scenes. A majority of the time it’s only his clawed hands or his handy work (the pranks). I’m still not sure why the main character could see the imaginary friend in the first place, but it was forgivable given the amazing premise. The premise itself is what makes me want to rate this higher but in all in on the technical side it’s just alright.
Entertainment Value – 4
Here’s the thing about most of my complaints for this film, I feel that a killer story idea like this could have been amazing like “ParaNorman” or something but instead the film is just pretty good. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that but I still couldn’t keep that out of my head. Honestly, I think this could benefit from a remake. Go further with the concept, heck go more intense. Although that probably wouldn’t happen since this is a TV movie, this concept is just too good not to be used to it’s fullest potential. And remember that classics like “12 Angry Men” and “Marty” were originally made-for-tv before being remade as theatrical films. The beginning is a little slow, feels more like a typical comedic Disney TV movie like “Smart House” or something.
However that did bring back some old memories of watching these kind of movies as a kid. More importantly the first third works well to get the younger kids to like Larry so, when he begins to slowly turn into a boogeyman, you feel sorry for him. But, the transformation also makes for a scene that would have probably terrified me as a kid. Think the scene in “Fellowship of the Ring” where Bilbo briefly changes into something Gollum like in Rivendell. Then when the plot really kicks into high gear at the end in the boogeyworld the excitement and action work well yet don’t get in the way of the moral. This is no “Inside Out” but I suspect this made a few of the young kids’ eyes watery back in ’99.
So, some may be asking “why showcase this obscure tv movie?” One, I think a lot of us like to search for the more obscure stuff during this time of year. Two, well like in my “ParaNorman” review, I think what we show our kids is important. They deserve to have clever and interesting stories told to them and when that happens it should be acknowledged.
Rewatchability – 3
I did not grow up seeing this as a kid as I didn’t have access to the Disney Channel in 1999. But, I can fully see why someone who did would love this film. However, for me, I just thought it was pretty good with no plans to re-watch it. But if I ever did, maybe I’ll show it to my younger sisters, and I probably wouldn’t complain about sitting through it again.
Obviously not the scariest thing you could watch for Halloween (if you're an adult) but if you're in the mood to see a really smart premise then this could be for you. There is nostalgia value (either if you grew up watching this or are just nostalgia for this type of film) which for me goes hand in hand with the Halloween season. I give it 4 stars out of 5.