Hello, friends! I’m back with another Disney Channel Original Movie review. We’re slowly by surely approaching the end of the DCOMS that begin with the letter ‘D’ (only two more after this one!). If you’re new here I am in the process of reviewing every DCOM for each of the four letters of my first name. Make sure you read my earlier reviews of the Descendants trilogy (start here) and Dadnapped (2009).
Today’s review will be on Don’t Look Under the Bed. This DCOM premiered on the Disney Channel on October 9, 1999 and was the first–and seemingly, the last–horror themed Disney Channel Original Movie. According to this Entertainment Weekly article, the movie wasn’t received well when it first aired and Disney received mail complaints from parents. As a result, the Disney network eventually stopped airing the film. I don’t have much of a history with this DCOM in particular but I do remember knowing about it. Older DCOMs that were a bit before my time (I was born about two months after this film premiered) used to play on the Disney Channel in the middle of the night on the weekends. I used to love using the TV guide to record whatever forgotten DCOM was going to be aired that night. Don’t Look Under the Bed was one of the films that I tried to watch, but thought better of after I suspected that it would give me nightmares. I didn’t like to watch anything remotely creepy when I was younger (and I still don’t), so I don’t think I had ever watched this movie in its entirety. I can guess that this DCOM was probably overshadowed by all of the Halloweentown sequels that were shown during the month of October. Going into this one, I was very curious to see what I would think of it as an adult.
The movie follows Frances Bacon, a girl who lives in a standard middle-America suburb where strange things start occurring. Alarm clocks are set back, dogs end up on the roofs, a teacher’s car gets egged, and the letter ‘B’ is spray painted all over the school lockers and across the town. However, Frances’s locker is the only one that does not get tagged. The town and her family start to suspect that Frances is to blame for all of the town’s pranks. When she meets Larry, a guy that no one else can see but her, and he tells her that the Boogeyman is behind it all and that he’s out to get her, things get even stranger.
To put it plainly–this one was a struggle to get through. The film in its entirety seemed as if it was trying to do too many things. First, Larry is introduced as an imaginary friend who can help Frances understand what is happening in her town. However, for the majority of the film Frances is so set on not believing that she is only one who can see Larry that it becomes insufferable to watch. We’re also led to believe that Frances is very smart and no-nonsense. In the beginning of the film it is revealed that she has skipped a grade and is starting high school a year early. Though, this is the only natural element of her ‘intelligence’ that we get. For the remainder of the film, the audience is beat over the head with the phrase “logical explanation” to remind us that Frances is too smart to believe in an imaginary friend. Frances and everyone around her overuse this phrase to death. Seriously. It’s said so much that I should have started counting. Don’t tell us that she’s smart and logical–show us! Give us more background! We could have been given more information other than her skipping a grade to display how “grown up” Frances is for her age, but that just didn’t happen. This was a big problem in the writing department and it annoyed me to no end.
Next, the story of the Boogeyman would have been beneficial to know earlier on in the film. It’s a bit convoluted and felt so rushed towards the end. For the first full hour we’re still in the dark about why the Boogeyman is framing Frances and why Larry knows so much about how to help her. There are a few weird hints here are there about Larry and the role he plays but they didn’t move the plot along at all. Most of the movie is just Frances getting blamed for a prank that the Boogeyman did, and her saying that Larry is the explanation. Of course, no one is able to see Larry so everyone just assumes that Frances is going through a teenage rebellion phase. Rinse and repeat. It gets really old and instead of building suspense and mystery it just gets plain annoying to watch.
To save you some time from watching this one, I’ll reveal what happens in the end. In the last 20 minutes of the film, it’s revealed that when imaginary friends are no longer believed in they turn into Boogeymen. When Frances’s little brother, Darwin, is taken by the Boogeyman to the Boogeyworld under her bed, she and Larry go to save him. However, Larry is slowly turning into a Boogeyman himself because he was Darwin’s imaginary friend. Frances had previously convinced her brother to stop believing in imaginary friends when he was diagnosed with Leukemia, and now there is a chance that Larry will turn evil. After a stand-off with the Boogeyman that’s been bothering Frances, we find out that it’s Frances’ old imaginary friend, Zoe, who is never mentioned until this reveal. Throughout the film we see Frances attempt to act above the idea of having an imaginary friend, but there are essentially no other indicators of her past friend Zoe. Maybe I just missed something, but the reveal just felt off. What felt even more out of place was when Larry kisses Frances at the end of the film. Other than when Frances first notices Larry at school and he smiles at her, there are no actual signs of romance between the two throughout the movie. So the final kiss just felt awkward.
None of the side characters are memorable (we never see Frances’ best friend Joanne again after her two appearances at the beginning of the movie…)and I honestly couldn’t figure out the parents’ characters for the life of me. Even the more tender scenes at the very end of the film when Frances finally starts believing felt weird and forced.
The special effects makeup of the Boogeyman is very 90s which is expected, and there are some scenes that can been viewed as creepy for kids (items moving by themselves and the entire under-the-bed Boogeyworld sequence). I would have definitely been spooked by this one when I was younger. But what bothered me more than anything as I watched it now was the puzzling plot and the unbearable acting. It was a complete miss for me. I was so relieved when I was finished watching!
Save your time and energy. I definitely see why this was the first and last “horror” DCOM that Disney made. The light-hearted Halloween films are just so much better.