This played the 2007 Fantastic Fest and unfortunately I didn't manage to fit it into my schedule. I was disappointed. Not so disappointed that I didn't pass on the DVD to Jason when it came out for review, but disappointed nonetheless. Deep inside. Hey, it's Halloween and Jason gets to review (whether he likes it or not) the horror titles. That was the deal. Always read the fine print, my friend. Always read the fine print.
(sound of diabolical laughter)
I really hoped it was more than a Satanic piece of furniture, more than a La-Z-Boy hewn from the bones of the stillborn and tortured souls. Although there’s something alluring about a story involving a thrift store hell-couch, I was itching for something more. I wanted sex and drugs and violence, preferably all at once. In that regard, ‘The Devil’s Chair
’ delivered, if only just.
) is your typical slope-browed thug, one of those acid-tongued miscreants who is scratching and clawing his way down the evolutionary ladder. Within the first five minutes, Nick
drags his slut girlfriend, Sammy
), into an abandoned mental hospital, where they begin their coke-fueled shenanigans. Surely nothing bad can come from this, right? Right?! Right away, they stumble across a nasty little chair from the Cenobite
school of design. And Sammy
, well . . . Sammy
sits in the damned thing. And she dies. Badly. I’m not sure what happened. The chair ate her. It penetrated her, drawing blood in all manner of unsavory ways. Nick
’s arrested, put on trial, and after he spills his killer chair story, goes straight to the loony bin.
Years go by until one ambitious Dr. Willard
) decides to try and help Nick
through his psychotic delusions. Along with his grad school team of victims, they take Nick
back to the scene of the crime to help ‘sort through his issues’
. Any horror fan can see what’s happening here. You can call the shots and look like a dyed-in-the-wool ‘Dead Zone’
psychic – or at least that jackass film-nerd friend who ruins every movie by proclaiming it to be oh so predictable. You see, Dr. Willard
has rather curious motives. That’s a big clue. He’s a psychiatrist in a horror movie. As I’ve established before (see my review for "Insanitarium"
), all psychiatrists in horror movies are egomaniacal pricks and most likely dangerous. Dr. Willard
is no exception. As he strides around the set making bold proclamations and sounding like Dr. Orpheus
, you just know the guy has a big ‘fuck you’
up his sleeve. Nick
tags along with the team to the still abandoned mental hospital. Clue #2 – its called ‘Blackwater Asylum’
. The founders apparently weren’t even trying to make this sound inviting. Why not call it ‘Hellgate’
or ‘Weeping Sore Sanitarium’
? To make matters worse, the place has a history of scandal and horror.
Within about half an hour of arriving at Blackwater, the bad decisions of the characters start to stack up like a Fibonacci sequence
of poor choices. As if escorting a known psycho killer to an asylum called Blackwater wasn’t enough, then our victims start sitting in the chair. They didn’t know they were in a horror movie. I’ll give them that. They didn’t know their final hours were going to involve a chair of evil origin. Fine. But when you see a chair that’s decorated in blood and human remains – Don’t fucking sit in it. Don’t look at it. Don’t stay in the same room with it. Don’t provoke it. It’s a chair mounted with a human skull. Maybe it’s time to leave.
Blood is spilled, the flies from Amityville
show up, and things proceed to go wrong in all the ways you’d expect. Here, at the 45 minute mark, the film really picks up. Now you’re told from the first sequence that this was going to be a brutal and savage trip, but a journey to Silent Hill
was not something I saw coming. There are some great, obscure creature designs here and the effects were used in such a way that was largely believable. The hellish visions were dirty and claustrophobic and that alone made the film worth watching. Unfortunately, our characters were, for the most part, unlikable or just plain transparent. Nick
himself was unsympathetic in every way. Early on, he establishes himself as the self-aware, questionable narrator of the film. These Snatch
-style freeze frames tend to interrupt the flow of the movie and constantly remind us of what a bloodthirsty ape he is. We’re beat over the head with his contempt for everyone, using prose so forced it feels siphoned from a bad Mickey Spillane
novel. Much like the victims, the audience is kept guessing if the evil is real, a product of Nick
’s insanity, or somewhere in between.
Just when the climax is burrowing under your skin, you’re slapped with a nasty Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
of an ending. The narrator doesn’t just break the fourth wall, he blows it to smithereens and pisses all over the smoldering ruins. It’s a sucker punch that’s not altogether unexpected, but they sell it so brazenly that you can’t help but go along.
There’s nothing to get excited about here, really. The commentary track is somewhat interesting, as the filmmakers explain themselves and try to justify the gamble they took with the film. Here, there decisions are fleshed out a bit more and tend to be less dumbfounding than the film itself. Aside from that, there’s your standard ‘making of’
featurette, which of course only regurgitates what you just watched.
‘The Devil’s Chair’
isn’t remarkable, by any means. It’s gruesome, well-executed, and ballsy, but falls short of being spectacular. It’s one of those films that hinges so wholly on one moment – often a twist – that if executed poorly, the whole endeavor is ruined. High Tension
? I’m looking at you two French sonsabitches! 'The Devil’s Chair'
narrowly pulls off the aforementioned sneak, if only barely. All things considered, it’s one of the better straight-to-video gore-fests to come along in a while. Don’t be surprised if some contrived sequel flies in under your radar before too long. I’d throw out some possible demon/furniture combinations, but even I have my limits.
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