Some of my favorite children’s or family films are ones that challenge kids. Ones that push down boundaries and make kids think. Fart jokes and potty humor can be fine of course but children need more. Movies like The Goonies and My Girl don’t dumb things down. They deal with real issues and the kids talk and act like real kids.
Horror is a genre that can challenge children as well, believe it or not. There have been many children’s “horror” films throughout the years. Not ones that are filled with blood and guts but ones filled with just enough fear to leave an impact and maybe create a future horror fan. The Disney Channel has always been a mixed bag. A lot of times, the movies tend to be somewhat more childish. Don’t Look Under the Bed can definitely be silly but it also has a lot to offer young and old viewers.
Don’t Look Under the Bed is about a teen girl named Francis who is a role model daughter and student. Good grades. Good behavior. Weird things are happening around town though. Things that are starting to make Francis believe she is going crazy. With the help of an imaginary friend, Francis must deal with the possibility that the boogeyman could exist and is targeting her and her family.
The idea of an imaginary friend can sound childish in a movie like this but they do a good job at taking the idea of magical things existing seriously. The imaginary friend explains that evil such as the boogeyman is real. He is actually the imaginary friend of Francis’ younger brother but for some reason the only person who can see him is Francis. Why is the boogeyman targeting them? That is what they are trying to figure out.
Erin Chambers does a good job as our lead Francis. She brings maturity to the character without appearing too snobbish. When things start to go down she isn’t too trusting at first. She asks the smart questions that a lot of us would. She uses her brain and fights back while still being open and vulnerable.
Ty Hodges plays Larry Houdini, the imaginary friend. Yes…that is his name. This character is either going to be liked or annoy people. At times, he can be a little much. He constantly bounces off the walls, makes sounds, and can be pretty immature. Honestly, the actor is good at doing all these things though. The character is the imaginary friend of a little boy. Of course, he is going to act cartoony, have a weird name, and act somewhat silly. The little moments where he has to be serious are good and he does it well also.
This is definitely a horror film for kids and it definitely does a lot of things well. There are genuine moments of creepiness from beginning to end. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes showing your monster too early can ruin the experience of a film. Some of the best horror films take their time building up suspense. We get little hints here and there of what the danger could be. Alien is a good example because that movie shows glimpses adding to the mystery of the creature adding suspense. Of course, this movie isn’t on the same level as Alien but I do sure appreciate the effort.
The boogeyman is kept in the shadows basically right up until the climax. The movie uses creativity through other scares, There is a scene where Francis is investigating the weird things going on at her school. She walks towards the front of the school and realizes everyone on campus is completely frozen in place. She walks around for a while in silence looking at everyone until suddenly everyone begins moving again. It is something out of the Twilight Zone. It is subtle and things like this throughout the movie work. It shows the movie has more ideas than just the monster.
The CGI isn’t perfect which is a theme for most Disney Channel Original Movies. The makeup and design of the boogeyman are pretty good. You can tell the artists took their time and put creative thought into how they were going to make an original scary creature.
There is also a strong message about the effects of grief. Francis’ younger brother at one point needed a transplant to survive. Francis being a perfectionist was so broken that she couldn’t help her brother. Even though he survived she holds a guilt inside her. Ever since then, Francis has made it her goal to complete everything and find an answer to every question. Several horror movies throw in meaning between the scares. The movie flows well and by the end, everything wraps up pretty nicely.
Don’t Look Under the Bed is a refreshing, entertaining creepy film from the Disney Channel. Children and adults could definitely enjoy this one. The acting is good. It’s shot well. The set pieces are well-designed. Most of all, the creativity stands out. We even get a nice little twist towards the ending. Many movies don’t challenge children enough and this one does while still being a fun ride. Check this one out for sure just in time for spooky season.