For no reason whatsoever I just remembered this film exists yesterday and so I decided to review it, when I described it to my fiancee she was sure I was talking about ‘Drop Dead Fred’ because both movies centre around imaginary Friends and their antics and both are probably a bit darker/adult that a kids movie should be but after a quick google search I found it. ‘Don’t Look under the bed’ is a 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie, although unlike many other Disney Movies which either became classics or drifted straight into DVD/Video bargain bin, this movie was actually taken completely out of Disney’s broadcast rotation, even at Halloween because it was deemed too frightening for its young target audience.
‘Don’t Look under the bed’ features Erin Chambers as Frances McCausland, Eric “Ty” Hodges II as Larry Houdini, Steve Valentine as The Boogeyman, Jake Sakson as Darwin McCausland and Rachel Kimsey as Zoe (the old imaginary friend of Frances)
Anyway on to the review properly, I can sort of agree that this movie was darker than it probably should have been, for a start Darwin, the main character’s little brother almost died of Leukaemia a few years prior to the events of the movie and also as a result Frances abandoned her childhood and decided to live a Vulcanesque life of logic and facts instead of imagination and child-like whimsy. So in a movie meant for children we have almost literal child death, and the more figurative death of her childhood. That’s sufficiently dark that when thinking back on the movie I was surprised to find that it was made my Disney.
From this point on you should be aware of spoilers
The plot of the movie kicks off with Frances McCausland, the main character starting high school a year early, because they really wanted to hammer in the fact that she’s rushing through her childhood. It seems like overnight the town of Middleburg is in chaos, someone has perpetrated a bunch of ‘Pranks’ like setting alarm clocks to the wrong times, egging a teacher’s car, filling a whole swimming pool full of Jelly and Spray painting the Letter B all over town including on all the lockers at school. Suspicion is cast on Frances because her locker is the only one missing a B on it, instead its spray painted on the inside.
She is very quickly approached by a boy called Larry Houdini, because that’s a real name, and he claims that he can help her and that he is an imaginary friend. This is supported by the fact that he appears to be invisible to everyone but young children. Larry says that the real ‘Prankster’ is The Boogeyman and that for some reason he is trying to frame her the various incidents across town. In fairness, Boogeyman mischief is such a common occurrence that I don’t know why her mind didn’t just go straight to oogie boogie.
Events escalate when their is a town wide blackout, caused by The Boogeyman where only the McCausland home is unaffected, further implicating Frances. Just before I continue to talk about the movie I want to point out that shutting down power to a town is a huge leap from spraypainting and egging, I mean as much as those are vandalism, they are widely considered the be in the youthful hijinks category, whereas he escalated to supervillain territory quite quickly, I guess vandalism really is a gateway crime. While I’m talking about crimes that this movie just glosses over, the whole alarm clock thing implies The Boogeyman is also cool with breaking and entering, basically by the end of this movie he’ll have built up a fairly substantial rap sheet.
I mentioned earlier that since her brother’s illness she’s treated the world differently, approaching things more logically, so when she encounters something she doesn’t understand she does the one thing that makes sense, she goes to the library, like Hermione Granger without the buck teeth and magic. She checks out a book about Boogeymen, so she now has ‘The Boogey Book’ and she and Larry use it to build a trap for The Boogeyman, made up of Boogey Goo to act as bait because Boogeymen apparently find irresistible and a device which will age the Boogeyman till he’s old and harmless.
Darwin accidentally stands in the goo, because of course he does and gets it on his shoe which attracts the Boogeyman straight to him, he is dragged off to the Boogeyman dimension, which is accessible under Frances’s bed, because of course it is and Frances and Larry soon follow.
However Larry is beginning to transform into a Boogeyman as well, because according to the Boogey Book…..god I really don’t wanna keep saying Boogie…a Boogeyman is created when a child stops believing in an imaginary friend too soon. Boogey-Larry which I maintain was the creepiest thing about this film almost hurts Darwin, but Frances convinced Darwin to believe in Larry again who reverts back to normal. They are now left with just the original Boogeyman, the group use the device they built earlier to turn it into an old person, and when they do Frances recognises her as her old Imaginary friend Zoe and takes her hand to show she still cares about and believes in her and she reverts to normal as well. With both Boogeyman back to being imaginary Friends they all return to the real world. Nothing much else happens except for Larry Kissing Frances, reminding her she can have both adult and child-like things in her life and both Imaginary friends leave to take on another rogue Boogeyman, jeez though three popping up so soon after each other must be like an emergence thing like the superpowered people in Heroes. Despite leaving we still get a shot of them smiling, as they watch Darwin and Frances sleep…it is less creepy than I’ve made it sound.
I think this movie deserves a lot more credit than it gets because not only did it manage to entertain and give us a classic Disney happy ending it dealt with some seriously mature issues in a way that children could process. It was also well acted, especially for the 90’s (with the possible exception of Erin Chambers who fell flat at times) and was just an entertaining, charming little film that didn’t really have anything wrong with it, so with that in mind I think I’ll give this movie a 7/10.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org