Film - The Chair

The Chair

Steve Taylor-Bryant takes on The Warden as he straps himself in to watch The Chair, the first feature film from Alterna Comics (with SPOILERS)...

I don't mind horror films although it's not my favourite genre. I like my stories psychological rather than scary and prefer my monsters to have been born human rather than fictitious. The Chair offers both these things and, as a lover of the graphic novel from Alterna Comics, I couldn't wait to see what a big screen version would be like. Short answer? Very dark and very, very twisted!

An innocent man on death row witnesses savage killings at the hands of the prison's sadistic Warden. To survive, he must match the brutality in the prison and confront his own horrifying past.

Before I get to highlight of the piece, the casting, there's a few aesthetic things to comment on. The charcoal and grey pencil look of the graphic novel was one of the highlights of the book for me and, quite amazingly for a film made in colour, they have managed to trap that feel on screen. There are no bright colours, it is a very drab looking piece of cinema and that works really well, not distracting you with lavish cinematography allows the characters to come to the fore. The disgusting decrepit looking prison is spot on in my opinion and whoever was in charge of finding that location needs an award of some kind. And the music, oh my word, the music. Sometimes sinister but often more melodic than you'd think, playing an almost lullaby during the guard's rape scene made the viewing particularly traumatic to sit through. Which brings me to the story element. Traumatic has to be the word used. It plays on torture and prison brutality in a way that is very uncomfortable to watch, which is the point. You aren't supposed to watch horror films to be entertained, you are supposed to be horrified, which I was. Truly horrified.

That isn't a criticism though, it's the biggest compliment I could think of.

Roddy Piper

The casting is incredible and this film wouldn't work without the cast it has. Timothy Muskatell as Sullivan progressively gets more unstable and agitated as the film goes on and is a performance of the very top drawer. I wouldn't want to go to a place in my mind where I could tap into Sullivan so Muskatell deserves immense credit. The Warden, the sadistic main character amongst the staff, is very well played by Bill Oberst Jr. and is exactly what you'd want from the evil protagonist and Naomi Grossman as Sullivan's Mother is genuinely evil looking in her performance. The guards though are the ones who deserve the most plaudits. They are twisted, they are positively evil and they enjoy their torture far too much. The standout cast member, not just from the rank of the guards but in the entire film, is Roddy Piper. I loved Rowdy Roddy Piper the wrestler when I was younger but was never really impressed by his forays into film, until now.

Piper, toothpick firmly entrenched in the corner of his mouth, was more believable as Murphy than any other character. You expected The Warden to be a twisted genius and that's what you got but in Murphy you had Piper the human being, the guard that had seen it all and seemed to relish the bloodshed and chaos that surrounded him, and Piper delivered the performance of not just this film but perhaps any horror film for the last 20 years. We lost Roddy Piper recently and, whilst I was sad and reflected on Piper the wrestler and what an impact he'd had on my childhood, I never expected him to have a massive impact on my adult life so, if The Chair is his legacy, then what a legacy to leave.

The Chair takes stomach to sit through, you have to be prepared for some horrendous imagery, but if you are and you can get to the end of Chad Ferrin’s wonderfully directed story then it's possibly the most rewarding film in the genre.

Find out how to buy the film and the graphic novel here...

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