Sunday, October 14, 2018

31 Days of Horror: THE CHAIR

Is anyone innocent?

Is anyone guilty?

Based on the graphic novel by Peter Simeti, The Chair is a complex nightmare that starts from the perception of an inmate on death row. He sees a twisted horror of sadistic guards, taunting inmates, and gory scenes of torture and violence. He constantly repeats his innocence, reaching out to the other inmates and watching as they are sadistically tortured by the Warden (Bill Oberst Jr.).

Timothy Muskatell's performance is divided as the tortured inmate, Richard Sullivan. He's haunted by the memories of abuse suffered at the hands of his mother. He sees himself as an innocent victim of circumstances, but he reacts with violence and shows more than a few glimpses of the psychotic madness with which he is accused. He's our introduction to the story and so we have to determine whether he's a reliable narrator to the events as they transpire.

It's hard to discuss Oberst's performance without spoiling the film. It's far more complex than we are originally led to believe. He is portrayed as a sadist when we meet him, but a different view is exposed as we peel back the layers and learn the truth about Sullivan's crimes.

But the stand-out of the film is Roddy Piper. I don't just say this as a fan of the Rowdy one, but as a viewer watching one of his final and very best performances. There is something special for him in this movie and we see the actor more so than the wrestler, a man digging deep for an incredible performance in the character of Murphy. He's a sadist, a monster, and maybe even a psychopath. But as the layers are peeled back, we see not everything is as it may seem.

The film does suffer from it's budgetary constraints and some concerning choices in the editing. A small scene between Murphy and Sullivan is constantly interrupted with unnecessary flash imagery of the Warden and somewhat interrupts the power of an intimate scene between the two actors. The flashes make more sense later, but I still felt as though the choice to interrupt may have undermined the potential power of the scene a little.

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