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The Devil's Chair (2006)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/7/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/7/2008

I really hate to get on my soap box (because it's quite rickety), but sometimes, it's inevitable. And when this happens, it means that I've reached the end of my rope on a particular subject and, unfortunately, something is going to be the scapegoat. In this instance, the target is The Devil's Chair, and this all came about because the movie jumps on a recent bandwagon which has reached the end of the line.

The Devil's Chair opens with Nick (Andrew Howard) and Sammy (Polly Brown) visiting the abandoned and dilapidated Blackwater Asylum. The pair take some acid (?) and then explore the ruined rooms. They come across a chair which resembles an electric chair. Sammy sits in it and the chair suddenly comes to life -- the shackles close on her wrists, drills pierce her flesh and she disappears. The story then leaps ahead several years. Nick has been incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital. He has been charged with Sammy's murder, but due to his story, he was deemed insane. Dr. Willard (David Gant) arranges for Nick to be released into his custody. Willard wants to take Nick back to Blackwater to confront the scene of the crime and his fears. Nick reluctantly agrees. They travel to the Asylum, accompanied by Rachel (Elize du Toit), Brett (Matt Berry), and Melissa (Louise Griffiths). While exploring the rotting building, they find the chair which Nick had described. Dr. Willard warns everyone to avoid it, but, of course, they can't, and trouble ensues. Can Nick overcome his terrible memories and help these clinicians?

First of all, allow me to get on with my rant. In my recent review for Insanitarium, I wrote that, for some reason, mental hospitals have become the haunted houses of the new millennium. It seems that every other week a new DVD is being released which is set in an old asylum. Not only does The Devil's Chair fall into this category, but it also brings in the other cliche which seems to be tied to this genre -- the mental hospital which was shut down because the doctor in charge was doing ethically questionable experiments. This idea has been around for some time, but for this generation, it was re-introduced with 1999's House on Haunted Hill. Since that time, this idea has been used over and over again, in films like Asylum, Crazy Eights, and many more. Again, I'm not sure why these movies have taken off in the way that they have (although, I do have a theory), but it's time for them to stop. Just as the slasher movies of the 80s became redundant and reached a point where they all looked the same, so have the "old mental hospital" movies.

I would have excused The Devil's Chair from perpetuating this cliche if it was a good movie, but it isn't. Speaking of 80's slasher movies, this film replicates their style in the sense that most of it crushingly dull. The movie opens with Sammy's gory murder and then NOTHING happens for nearly 50 minutes. We are forced to watch Nick wander the old asylum while the scientists make fun of him. They find the chair still in the building and talk about it at length. When something finally does happen, the movie doesn't get any better. A monster is introduced which, like so many women in the world, only looks good from behind. From the front, it looks like a cow skull shoved into a Hefty bag. There's a lot of bleeding, running, and screaming, and it all adds up to nothing. To compensate for the fact that none of the movie makes any sense, writers Adam Mason and Simon Boyes have constructed a "twist" ending which is not very original, and still won't let us forget all of the logic holes in the film.

(As with many of the movies in this genre, The Devil's Chair was shot in an abandoned building. This is the basis for why these films keep getting made -- filmmakers find these buildings where they can shoot for free or nearly free and decide to construct a story around it. The Devil's Chair is worse than many of the other culprits in this category, as the production designers didn't even try to make it look like an old hospital.)

The Devil's Chair seems to asking the question, "What would it look like if Guy Ritchie directed an abandoned asylum movie?" The answer is, it would have looked like a decent film, unlike this one. The movie wants to add a bit of style to the mix by having Jason Statham-wannabe Nick do voice-overs while the film freeze-frames. This doesn't save The Devil's Chair from being cheap and boring.

The Devil's Chair makes itself comfortable on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, as it's sharp and clear, showing only a touch of grain and no defects from the source material. The image is never overly dark or bright, and the red blood looks good. The picture is somewhat soft and lacks in detail at times, but there is no overt artifacting present. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects in the asylum are good and the monster attack scenes provide us with a nice level of surround and bass effects. If the movie had been any better, these impressive audio effects would have actually made it effective.

The Devil's Chair DVD contains two bonus features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Adam Mason and Writer Simon Boyes. The two hit the ground running and begin to discuss how they weren't happy with the first cut of the film and they re-shot the opening in an attempt to salvage the movie. From there, they discuss the making of the film, the actors, and the locations. They continue to be frank when discussing the film's budget and rushed production. "Blood, Sweat, and Fears: The Making of The Devil's Chair" is a nearly hour-long documentary chronicling the making of the movie. It begins with Mason and the Producers discussing how the project came together. (We learn that the script was written in three days. No surprise there.) Along with a lot of behind-the-scene footage, the speakers take us through the film's production. We also get details about how the film was edited into what we see today.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long