JUNE 4, 2008
Two days ago I made a rather unmotivated crack about Lionsgate’s utter ignorance of the anamorphic transfer for many of their DVDs. And sure enough, the next day I rented The Chair, which was presented sans anamorphic transfer, despite the promise of a 16x9 presentation (which I suspect their DVD department doesn’t actually understand the meaning of) and even anamorphic menus. It’s like they are just TRYING to annoy me at this point. Granted, it’s not a great film, but it deserves better (and F you to all but one of the other reviews I found for the film, even those on DVD sites, that don’t even mention this – maybe if more people point it out they will knock it the fuck off).
Here’s some advice to any filmmaker who is willing to take suggestions from a random horror movie fan who writes a blog: if your movie is only about one person, and it’s a slow burn of a film (neither of which are usually a problem with me), make sure that person is A. interesting, 2. fun to be around, and D. portrayed by a good actress. Alanna Chisholm, who stars in the film as Danielle, is pretty much the only character on screen for about 75% of it, but she is none of these things (though, strangely, she’s better as a crazy psycho than as a regular person). Making matters worse, her friend (or actually, sister, something that I refuse to believe since the two share not a single physical attribute) Anna, played by Lauren Roy, is a much better actress (and cuter to boot, IMO) and seems like someone I wouldn’t mind hanging out with for a whole movie. Danielle is, like the broad in Catacombs, dour and possibly delusional (and like that film, we’re never really given any information as to how/why she was crazy – it’s just a convenient plot point without any backup), which is fine if it’s a dramatic movie about getting over your fears, but the plot requires Danielle to more or less succumb to them, becoming slightly more interesting but even less likable, and the film awkwardly promotes Anna to the heroine with only 20 minutes to go.
There are many curious moments in the film that kept me relatively amused. There are at least two scenes of Danielle masturbating (one in the film’s first 4 minutes – way to set up a much more exciting film!), all of the phones in the movie have cords (do they even MAKE those anymore?), the film’s most exciting sequence is when the cute friend, er, SISTER, tries to sync a video up to a sound recording, and one scene inexplicably begins like this:
We are also told that the anniversary of the ghost’s original death took place 3 weeks before Danielle moved into the home, which means ‘something went wrong’ (what, we are never told). It also means that the ghost hung out for 3 weeks doing jack shit. Oh, and the ghost is apparently Powder:
It’s also yet another movie that attempts to spook us with a children’s song, in this case “Mockingbird”. Music is a problem throughout – at one point they watch a video (before it gets synced) and one of the girls makes a comment that there is no sound. But the film’s music score plays over the entire scene, so the silence of the clip (which would be presumably creepy) is sort of irrelevant.
But then the final 20 minutes save it. The titular chair finally gets built/used, on a little kid no less (for a movie about the ghost of a child killer, there is a distinct lack of child killing; just saying). Meanwhile, Anna goes off to the woods in order to find a body, and is helped by Danielle’s professor, who turns out to be the still-living Doctor from the video. He says the ridiculous line “A crowbar for Crow!” (why not a scarecrow or a DVD of The Crow?) and they find the corpse buried under what appears to be a thin layer of leaves. The corpse wakes up, has an Avid fart, the prof is whacked by a shovel, the corpse disappears via the worst CGI I’ve seen in a while, and Anna gets back in her car and drives home, where the kid takes a shovel to her. Lot of shovel action. It’s ridiculous enough to be entertaining; and a stark contrast to the rather dour and overly serious first hour.
The commentary track (buried in setup, not listed as a special feature) has some interesting nuts and bolts stuff, but doesn’t quite help explain some of the story’s lapses and holes (though to be fair, one or two issues I had were resolved upon watching the film again – there’s some rather subtle foreshadowing in the first act). They point out that most of the film was ADR, which is a surprise, as it’s never noticeable. In fact, with the exception of occasional use of the horrendous body-mount camera, all of my problems with the film are limited to the creative side; from a technical standpoint the film is pretty solid (and despite being shot on DV and given the standard lousy LG presentation, looks pretty good as well, with lots of nice camera trick shots that are more interesting in the ‘how’d they do that?’ way than anything resembling a scare). There are no deleted scenes either, just some making of stuff that won’t change your mind one way or the other regarding how you feel about such things (I find these 15 minute pieces rather boring 99 times out of 103).
I didn’t realize that the film was directed by the game guy who directed Ginger Snaps 2 (Brett Sullivan), which was not only a superior sequel but a good werewolf movie as well - two praises I almost never give out. It’s possible that this film is closer to his heart and all that (in addition to being an original, it’s also shot in his own home) but for the most part, it didn’t work for me. Hopefully on his next film he will find a way to keep the originality of this movie with the fun/suspense of Snaps.
One final note – the chair on the cover in no way resembles the chair in the film. Customary Lionsgate false advertising, though at least it’s only promising a chair and not things that aren’t in the movie at all (like zombies on Rise of the Dead, or a graveyard in The Off Season, or a decent looking werewolf like in Devil’s Hound). Progress?
What say you?