The Dwelling, directed by Jeff Maher, is a tale of a cursed bed that kills anyone who leaves it after they touch it. It is a mixed and muddled story that happens to have some surprising strengths in imagery and the acting of its two leads, but it is too uneven for those elements to carry it beyond its very obvious flaws...
...The film opens on an unspecified time where cult members are killing people on a large old tree. Time moves forward and a very large man cuts down the tree, and turns it into a bed. Flash forward to present day and a cop is being called to a murder at a sex club. So many stereotypes are set up with the introduction of the cop character Virgil (Colin Price). He’s a detective with demons, a hard drinking and no nonsense type of character. The film then jumps back in time with the booking of a sex room for a birthday party. The partiers are told the place has no room, but after a bribe, Room 18 opens up. The characters head there, and of course this is where the bed now is. Once they get on the bed it becomes very clear they can never leave the bed. The film goes back and forth between Virgil trying to solve the murder, and Sandy (Alysa King) and her friends struggle to leave the room. Eventually these two characters connect via cellphone, an hour apart before Sandy's impending death. It becomes a race against time itself for Virgil to find a way to save her, and for Sandy not to lose her mind as the bed plays tricks on her.
There is an overuse of flashbacks for each character, that works for some, and less so for others. Virgil's daughter was killed by a gang and Sandy's boyfriend was killed by a school shooter. Both of these events have lead them down tragic paths. One where Sandy dropped out of school and started hanging out with the wrong crowd. The idea that she would even end up at a sex club seems very unlikely given her flashback self, but trauma can lead one to unexpected places. Virgil's path led him to drugs and eventually killing an innocent man due to him thinking the man was involved in the death of his daughter. These emotional beats become a throughline for the characters, one that works very well, but ultimately would be served better in a different film than this one. The other flashbacks and stories of past trauma just don't work as well, given the other actors ability to sell the story they are given.
The visual effects in this small budget film are incredible and one reason to sit through this somewhat arduous tale is to see how some of the kills are done. The Dwelling rests on some great moments of tension and suspense and is paid off when the visual aesthetic works and is believable, even given its somewhat ludacris premise. One scene in particular that sticks out is, in an attempt to get help, a character throws a vodka bottle through a window and it smashes, then reverses and the window puts itself back together and the vodka bottle returns to the bed.
This reviewer has used the phrase "character" a lot when describing the characters other than Virgil and Sandy, that is because the script and film does not give them much to do other than be sort of a spring board for creative kills. So they aren't given much to make an impression. Which is sad because late in the film a character is giving a backstory piece about her mother's death and it leads to a very emotionally sound scene, but this is also set up for just another death. This is a horror film, so deaths are bound to happen and given how this one plays out, it is a very rewarding one. Still, one wishes a bit more craft went in to definition of characters aside from the leads.
Overall, The Dwelling is a film that has a lot of potential, but it is a mixed bag, one that never quite adds up to the film it could be. The film is worth checking out for the special effects, unique use of time, and strong acting performances from its leads. However, its weak acting( one actor so bad this reviewer can't even comment), lack of character development and jumbled storytelling make it just as easy to miss.
The Dwelling is now waiting for you on VOD/DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Justin Drabek
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