MOVIE REVIEW: The Chair

From the Alterna Graphic Novel comes a psychological tale about a man on death row who while waiting for his turn to venture to the electric chair, but has to deal with a sinister Warden, sadistic guards and his own mind. Richard Sullivan is an innocent man on death row, but the demons of his past haunt him more than the fate that awaits him when his time comes to die. The crimes that he is charged with bring him more abuse in prison.

This was a tough one for me to review, I love low-budget horror films, and B-Movies in general, but the darkness of this film almost lies to the viewer, it creates a misconception that is hard to get over. You think it’s a torture porn horror, but after a second viewing, you see that its more a dramatic psychological thriller. The film suffers from the lack of budget and also a clear path of what they are trying to discover. The basis behind the film is solid though and the more times you watch this the more you see the truth in what they are going for. For me the biggest delight in the first viewing was seeing childhood hero Roddy Piper starring in the film as one of the insane torturous guards, to be honest and fair to the man, this is one of the finest performances that he’s given. It’s an easy role for a lesser actor to play but Piper pulls something special out of the bag that gives this one character depth.

The torment of the Prisoner Sullivan is masterful from inside his own mind just as much as the prison system inflicts on him. His past shows a dark and disturbing inside into the life of children who are emotionally and physically abused and there is a lot of honesty in this part of the story. The failing mind of Sullivan is well crafted, how a seemingly peaceful man, wrongly convicted it seems, can be tormented into violence by the system. You question the innocence and guilt through the film. One can’t help but feel that with a few more actors who are better able to fit these roles and a slightly tighter script we would have had something truly special.

Sadly the film is let down by some performances which are either very over the top and hammy, or with some of the performers feeling as though they are reading from their script as they are saying the lines. The viewer gets the feeling that the film makers, the writers and director, are trying too hard. There is a less is more lesson to be heard here.

What I can say in a hugely positive note is that this film shows promise, the writers will move on and learn from this, they will, and they have it in them for future projects to create something along the lines of the Hammer Films, there are seeds you can see being planted as the film progresses. Fans of B-Movies like myself, and will find after a few viewings that this film grows on them.

This is as interesting in the concept as it is frustrating in the delivery. I was finding it hard coming up with a score for this, the faults haunted me all night before typing this up, but the inner depths that they manage to go to, the twisted vision we see of the system, and the performance of Mr. Piper, meant that I saw the truth. The violence and torture is well done. When you watch it, and you should, you should keep your mind open to the twisted ideas that they are trying to get through, you have to look deeper within the film. I’ll be honest and tell you that this film made me want to read the graphic novel more than anything else. If you are a fan of Mr. Piper, this is his final performance.

Director: Chad Ferrin
Writers: Erin Kohut (screenplay), Peter Simeti (story and characters)
Stars: Bill Oberst Jr., Timothy Muskatell, Roddy Piper

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