Without a chance to catch out breath The Chair, a film I’d already been hearing buzz about finally had it’s screen time. A Kickstarter-funded film, based on a graphic novel, where we examine what makes someone evil, and how far can we empathise with someone who is? This film pulls no punches from the word go. We see brutalisation, we see people eating food that’s been urinated on, we see people dragged off behind doors screaming and bleeding from the twisted attentions of a prison warden straight out of torture porn genre highlights like Hostel (complete with leather apron and steampunk goggles). There’s a prisoner cut in half; a janitor gets murdered with a mop, and there’s an excruciatingly long rape scene that just. Won’t. End.
It’s a lot, and all of that is in the first half. With that being the case it all falls flat (with the exception of the rape scene which is genuinely horrifying in a non-entertaining way). It plays its hand altogether too early, there’s no glimmers of hope, no chance of escape or redemption, and no juxtaposition for the gore and abuse. This first half is saved for me by a truly stellar performance by Roddy Piper, who despite being one of the main characters is almost unrecognisable in his mannerism and vocal performance.
The second half of the film is a different story, our main character is an unreliable narrator, but everything he’s described has some relevance to the reality we now see. It is a marked improvement on the first half. Tense, psychological, and it wasn’t so overstated it bordered on Braindead/Dead Alive levels of comedy-gore.
Overall The Chair felt more like a film for horror fans rather than a horror for film fans but made great use of its limited budget. It featured some fantastic performances (Bill Oberst Jr. dual role in particular) and lived up to the hype I’d heard about just how harrowing a film on this budget could be.