Fantastic Fest 2007: The Devil's Chair

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
I gave you a brief rundown on Adam Mason's The Devil's Chair after seeing (and enjoying) it at the Toronto Film Festival, but after seeing it a second time with a rather enthusiastic Fantastic Fest audience I figure it deserves a full-bore FEARnet review, so here it is:

If you're a hardcore horror fan who loves to pick certain influences and references out of a film that was obviously made by one of our own, my guess is that you'll have a pretty good time with this flick. It's short, slick, sick, well-paced, surprisingly creepy, and absolutely coated in icky, sticky gore. Between this flick and Mason's last effort (the little-seen Broken) I'm beginning to think there's another talented scare-slinger on the horizon, and if neither of these films are destined to become cult classics, they both act as an indication of a director to keep an eye on. Heck, the guy even references Hellraiser and addresses the horror geeks directly before the mayhem is all done with.

The plot centers on a guy who may or may not be a raving psychopath, but either way ... Nick West has seen some pretty horrific sights. Seems that his drug-lovin' girlfriend was sliced up and then abducted from a freaky abandoned asylum -- and the authorities are convinced that Nick did the deed. But since there's no body to be studied, Nick is shipped off to the loony bin for a few years. But when a team of college researchers bring Nick back to the scene of the crime for an overnight study session, well, let's just say that a good portion of hell is about to break loose. The impending horror originates from a nasty chair that was created for some horrifically unkind reasons, and that damned chair just might be the portal to a dimension filled with monsters both horrible and hungry.

So while The Devil's Chair is not much more than Hellraiser combined with a basic slasher tale, Mason is a solid enough director to keep the jolts and the splat coming at an appreciably brisk pace -- plus the finale packs some surprises that may irritate some and satisfy others. (The semi-surprise at the end worked just fine for me, but then again I also dug the ending of Haute Tension, so feel free to decide for yourself.) Leading man Andrew Howard delivers a surprisingly excellent performance as a guy who's either tortured or torturing, and he's flanked by a handful of colorfully watchable potential victims.

But what's most impressive about The Devil's Chair is the look of the piece. Horror freaks who know their stuff may not adore the derivative plot or the semi-sloppy plot contortions, but there's little denying that The Devil's Chair is a slick-looking, atmospheric, and frequently beautiful film to behold. Plus it's short, nasty, and heavy on the sticky stuff. Adam Mason clearly has his best movies ahead of him, but this one's still more than fun enough.