Ricky Church chats with Bed of the Dead director Jeff Maher…
The upcoming horror film Bed of the Dead features two young couples out for night of debauchery at the city’s oldest sex club find themselves stuck on a haunted antique bed where getting off means suffering a gruesome fate. Upon calling the police they are connected with a skeptical detective who informs them that he is currently investigating the death of four young people at the same sex club in the same antique bed! Plagued with frightening hallucinations, they must figure out the bed’s secrets before they are picked off one by one.
Produced by Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment, the movie is something of a throwback to the 70s and 80s era of the horror genre. Jeff Maher, who also wrote the script for the movie, has worked extensively as a cinematographer for several of Black Fawns’ movies, such as Antisocial and Bite, but has now taken a turn at directing his first feature film. Flickering Myth recently had the chance to speak with Maher about his creative process with Bed of the Dead and his adjustment from cinematographer to director.
Ricky Church: How did you come up with the idea for Bed of the Dead?
Jeff Maher: It was the composer, Stephanie (Copeland), who is also my fiancé, she and I were talking about when we were young and would run and jump into bed because you were scared of something underneath that was going to catch you. We were just joking about how children are and those sorts of anxieties children have and she suggested that idea as a film. That’s sort of how it all came together and it worked perfectly because these are low budget horror movies we’re doing for Breakthrough Entertainment through Black Fawn Films so there’s sort of one location we primarily work at.
So then we have this bed judges people and we thought is it a slumber party with a bunch of kids in there? We didn’t really want to do it about a bunch of kids, we wanted to do it about adults so I figured ‘how are we going to get 3 or 4 adults on one bed?’ which is why it ended up taking place at a sex club.
RC: This was also your first time directing a feature film so how did you adjust your role from cinematographer to director?
JM: Because I’ve shot a lot of movies and music videos the adjustment wasn’t much of a difficult one, but working with actors was certainly something new for me. I had seen other directors do it so I actually bought a bunch of books about talking to actors, working with actors, how to speak to them in their language. I studied those books as much as I could. When it came time after we casted the film, I sat down with the actors and basically explained to them my level of experience and asked them for their help and guidance. If they felt I wasn’t giving them useful direction, then to help me give more thought-out adjustments to their performances.
RC: So you talked a minute ago about how the majority of this movie takes place in one location and primarily on this bed. What challenges were there for you and the crew to film around that and make it really involved with the characters?
JM: I think that was exactly it. Trying to make one location interesting for an hour and a half. Certainly of course having the actors – they’re not even standing, they’re sitting most of the time. So what we came up with was to turn one location into two whereby we would set the room on fire, set the bed on fire, and shoot the first portion of the movie with these four people on the bed and when they’re wrapped we set the room on fire and there’s an investigator who is looking into their deaths.
We essentially kind of turned it into two locations so anytime I felt it was getting a little redundant or uninteresting being on the bed I would cut to the next morning with our detective trying to figure out what happened.
RC: How did playing around with those two timelines help you during the writing process and then making the movie?
JM: It actually complicated it in a way because suddenly we had almost two different stories going on at the same time. At first they were meant to be separate stories. The idea was the detective would discover these gruesome murders and they sort of died in bizarre ways, like someone will be hanging from the ceiling and mashed into the wood for no particular reason that the detective can understand. He does his investigation and then we cut to the previous night where we showed you how it all happened. That was the original idea, he kept finding these weird murders and we cut to how it happened, but then we decided to have these two worlds interact. So the idea came up that what if one of them phones the detective, but he’s actually investigating their deaths. It turned into this weird, inter-dimensional thing so it got a little complicated when I decided to connect the two characters.
RC: The poster for the film is very cool looking and is very evocative of classic horror movies from the 70s and 80s. Would you consider Bed of the Dead to be a bit of a modern throwback to that era of the genre?
JM: Yea, I think so. I’d say Bed of the Dead is a bit of a throwback film to the horrors of the 70s and 80s. I’m a fan of those movies, those were the movies I was raised on. Even the title, we wanted to have this fun, schlocky, B-movie sounding title. I think horror movies are supposed to be a bit of fun and that’s what we set out to do when we wrote this.
RC: What are some of your biggest inspirations of the horror genre? Did you take anything from the films you’ve liked in horror and put them in this?
JM: I think so. I was terrified of A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was a kid. I wasn’t allowed to watch them so I watched them at my friend’s house on his VCR. Those were the horror movies I remember, they were fun, silly and terrifying. So that was the idea, to create a kind of Nightmare on Elm Street vibe, but the procedural aspect of it was inspired by films like Se7en.
RC: You’ve worked with Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough for quite a while now. What is it about Black Fawn that makes you come back onto their projects, whether it’s their music videos or features?
JM: Cody (Calahan, producer) and I met about seven years ago on a couple movies we were doing in Windsor, ON and we really just hit it off and sort of became best friends almost immediately. Basically we’ve just been working ever since and I’d say its got more got to do with the relationships and the friendships as to why I’ve stuck around. All of us have a common goal which is to continue to make movies, have fun making them, pushing ourselves and the limits on how far we can go with these things.
RC: Is there anything aside from Bed of the Dead you’ve got coming up now?
JM: As you know, we’ve just wrapped principal photography on Chad Archibald’s latest movie The Heretics (read our set visit to The Heretics here). Right now I’m working on a music video for Steph Copeland, who is the composer for Bed of the Dead and most of the other Black Fawn Films movies, and that will be a music video that will be intercut with clips from Bed of the Dead. It’s kind of like the music videos in the 80s and 90s that would advertise movies so again keeping in the spirit of that throwback vibe.
Check back here for more news and interviews on Bed of the Dead!
Bed of the Dead will have its World Premiere on July 16th at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
Many thanks to Jeff Maher for taking the time for this interview.
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