"Bedfellows": A Short Horror Film Analysis
“Bedfellows” is a short horror film spanning two and a half-minutes, directed by Drew Daywalt. Published to YouTube on February 10, 2010, the film is already over a decade old, but remains ever popular with a near 5-million watch count. The story it tells is a simple one, centering around a couple who awakens to a late night phone call which uncovers a disturbing reality that is a home intrusion.
At the beginning, the audience is presented an overhead shot of who are apparently the titular “bedfellows”: a woman by the name of Rachael Ann Carter, and a man named Daniel James Pizky, or more simply, just Rachael and Danny. Additionally there are various shots of framed photos featuring the two characters during various moments of leisure, and what looks to be a wedding photo. All of the important information to be known about the characters is presented in roughly the first 35 seconds: they are a young, new - presumably married couple living together in a family home.
In the first scene, Rachael and her husband are in the midst of a slumber when the silence is suddenly disrupted by the dreaded ring of the home phone. Typically, being woken up at 2 AM to a scam call on your mobile phone would be unfavorable enough, but here the situation quickly goes from annoying to fearful. Rachael groggily reaches to the opposite side of her bed for the phone, answers, and somewhat to her surprise, it’s Daniel. He hadn’t actually been inside the house during most of that time as he was struggling to fall asleep, and apparently he had accidentally locked himself out, and didn’t have his keys on him. He asks her to get the door for him.
What follows is the final moment in which the intruder is made known to the audience. It looks inhuman and corpse-like, with pale skin and sharp teeth visible through it’s predatory grin. The best description for it is vampiric. It’s appearance is reminiscent of such horror characters as the Babadook, Pazuzu in The Exorcist, and Count Orlok in Nosferatu.
Here, the sound design serves its purpose beautifully. There is a low ambience that builds as Rachael hesitantly reaches to uncover the creature hiding right next to her, appearing to gaze intently at the viewer. The nice thing about the camerawork in this particular part is that it effectively has you face to face with the monster, learning firsthand the true nature of the situation before the characters do, but consequently becoming its first victim as a result. Other than the disjointed tonal shift at the end, it is otherwise an effective scare. But I’ll get to that part in due time.
Themes & Implications
The main theme portrayed in “Bedfellows” is that of home invasion. Home as we understand it is specifically designed to promote security, traditionally with walls to serve as the boundaries between calm sanctuary and the chaos that is the outside world, blocking out predators and the elements. The circumstances reflect just how easily that sense of security can be stripped away, especially upon realizing that you had unknowingly invited a metaphorical vampire into your home after it was too late. The film also manages to tap into that fear of the monster under the bed that was commonly associated with childhood.
There also appears to be a distinct style of writing in which hindsight bias is used to the film's advantage, and events building up to the final act become scarier in retrospect, implying more disturbing possibilities than they did on first viewing.
The first, seemingly minor detail that can be noticed in hindsight is that the stranger beside Rachael looks to be lying as stiff as a corpse, as if wanting to avoiding drawing attention to itself, this is right in the beginning of the film.
Another thing which I personally gathered upon my third or fourth watching is in relation to the character Danie, and is based on some information given throughout the film of his predicament:
- Daniel goes out for a late-night walk, unable to sleep.
- he had accidentally locked himself out of the house and didn’t have the keys to get himself back in.
- This stranger happened to be in their house during all that time.
I think one of the possibilities is that Daniel was deliberately locked out by whatever this thing was; after all, it would force Rachael to get out of bed to get to him, effectively putting her in a position of vulnerability that it apparently favored. On the other hand, there doesn't appear to be anything preventing the creature from killing Rachael right then and there.
Earlier I mentioned the film taps into the fear of the monster under the bed. It does actually seem that the creature may indeed be a concrete interpretation of the Bogeyman which many children were thoroughly terrified of for decades.
In popular culture the Bogeyman was usually depicted as a evil creature of the night that terrorizes children, lurking under their beds or in their closets. As such, it seems pretty likely that the film's story derived it's inspiration from those classic Bogeyman stories. The character as depicted in the film seems very much like the type of supernatural being that sneaks up on you during the night, when you're alone, and asleep, to prey on you much like an actual Bogeyman.
Bedfellows works as a horror film because it manages to build an eerie atmosphere through what I can best describe as a harmonious use of scenery and sound design, establishing a sense of dread as it builds up to the reveal of it's monster.
The primary source of fear comes from the sudden realization that all security you felt was entirely false, as such the devices used throughout the film were very well incorporated. At first all is silent in the night, except the ticking of a clock and the chirping of the crickets outside, but then the silence is broken by the startling ring of the home phone. With headphones, an attentive ear may notice a low ambient sound at that moment, which builds up for the rest of the film. The bass-thumps reinforce the progression of Rachael's emotions, from surprise to dread to horror very well, starting at first as a low thump and then a jolting rise as dread gives way to horror.
The only problem with the execution was the very end, in which the creature lunges at the screen, and the song Willkommen im Nichts plays literally at that instant. I feel the transition should have been more gradual just as it was in the rest of the film: as Rachael hesitantly reaches to pull off the blankets to reveal her intruder, it cuts to a blank screen in a period of eerie silence seconds before the actual credits, after which the song plays. But other than that, I found it to be an effective horror short, and personally speaking, very nostalgic.
Daywalt Horror: Bedfellows
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.