Saturday, March 19, 2011

Death Chair: The Chair That Drags You Into a Hell Dimension

The more closely I watch films, the more pretentiously observant I come to think myself as being.

Damnit! In typing that sentence, I just broke another monocle. Good thing I get these things in bulk!
What I was trying to say--sorry, I should pause the Chopin so you can hear me--is that lately, I’ve been paying closer attention to things that make a film rather than just the film itself. I started thinking about this back when I watched Fabrice Du Weiz’s Calvaire and continuously thought, “this is an incredibly well-made film sitting inside a mediocre one.” Full thoughts on that over on episode 18 of the Girls On Film Podcast. It made me want to seek out more from the director, and now having seen his fairly incredible followup Vinyan, I get why.

I bring this up because last year, I watched a frustratingly nasty but quite well-constructed torturesome flick called Broken, made by Adam Mason and co-written by Simon Boyes. It made me miserable, but I couldn’t deny it bore the promise of an intriguing filmmaking team with better work ahead.
Hence, today I test that theory with their 2007 feature, The Devil’s Chair.
Have a seat.
Quick Plot: A pair of horny drug doers named Nick West and Sammy head to an abandoned lunatic asylum to pop some LSD and have kinky sex in a mysteriously rusted torture-ready chair. 
Some of us call such events ‘Thursday.’
It’s all very sexy in a grungy and not actually sexy way until the titular apparatus closes on Sammy, tearing at her flesh before evaporating the screaming addict into thin air.

Flash forward a few years to West as a patient in a mental asylum. Experimental psychologist Dr. Willard decides to cure his delusions by bringing West back to the site of his lady love’s disappearance, dragging a few assistants along the way.
Before you can hum the opening bars to “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat,” everyone is taking turns popping a squat and subsequently getting sent into an alternate Hellraiser-ish dimension where a freaky demon is on the hunt.

Different, right? Throughout the film, West narrates with an amused tongue-in-cheek attitude, something that rounds The Devil’s Chair in a self-aware state. We don’t quite know how seriously to take the Silent Hill-esque horrors lurking on the other side and while it might subtract something from the scare factor, it also gives the film a unique and wicked sense of humor that pays off well in a rather horrifying finale.

High Points
To go into too much detail on the performances may lead to spoilers, but I will say some of the hammier acting might be more clever than you think and throughout it all, lead Andrew Howard (the sheriff from the I Spit On Your Grave remake) is pretty fantastic

Low Points
Though the hell side of The Devil’s Chair has its moments, it also, unfortunately, has a whole lot of shabby CGI
Lessons Learned
A typical psychological research team will, without any question, include exceedingly attractive females

British people have odd ideas of pajamas, unless skeleton t-shirts, white riding pants, and boots are actually comfortable

In alternate hell dimensions, it’s very hard to hear giant monsters sneaking up on you, even when there’s nothing else anywhere near you making a noise

The Devil’s Chair is quite a confident little slice of genre fare that has some mean fun with tried and true conventions. Like Broken, it’s not for the faint of heart but it hits you hard with an interesting lead character, brutal imagery, and an effective twist that will most likely divide its blood-covered audience. It might not be for you, but if the style and story sound like your grog, have a seat (not in anything with rust) and give it a try.


  1. I enjoyed this film. I found it quite by accident while wandering aimlessly about a Blockbuster Video store.

  2. Ah, the aimless wanderings and the movies they lead us to...

  3. This sounds interesting enough. Netflix-ing!

  4. As always, can't wait to hear your thoughts!