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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Chair
The Chair
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // May 27, 2008
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted May 31, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
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The Movie:

The commentary track to The Chair, a low budget Canadian horror flick, reveals that the inspiration for the movie comes from a short story by the legendary Edgar Allan Poe. It's important to note this because the cover art that Lionsgate slapped this DVD with is a little misleading. The image of an elaborate torture chair suggests that this film will be yet another retread of the Saw franchise. It's not, really, although the torture chair does play a crucial role in the movie's climax. Instead, The Chair is more of an exercise in claustrophobic, psychological suspense, and for the most part, it works very well. There's a quote from Dominic Marceau of Bloody Disgusting on the very bottom of the cover art which likens the movie to such classics as The Changeling and Stir of Echoes - and these are two haunting films that are much more suggestive of The Chair's pedigree than Saw.

Lionsgate can be forgiven for its habit of misleading artwork (the garish cover for the fine fright flick The Entrance was equally unreflective of the film itself) since the company does such a great job of finding interesting low budget horror movies and releasing them with good supplemental material. This Canadian fright flick is no exception.

In The Chair, Alanna Chisholm plays Danielle, a graduate student who has some kind of history with mental illness and is currently on medication. She moves into a giant old Victorian home (director Brett Sullivan's own home, as he reveals in the commentary track) to work on her thesis. Never mind that the home is about ten times too large for a single twenty-something, she seems to be able to fill up the house with a lot of stuff with the help of her sister, Anna. Anna works as a dental assistant and there's a funny foreshadowing scene early on where she chides a man stuck in a dentist's chair.

In any case, strange noises and ghostly presences begin to plague Danielle. She even videos herself sleeping for clues as to what's going on. Is Danielle's house haunted by its disturbing past? Is she having a meltdown working on her thesis and neglecting her medication? The movie provides satisfying answers that horror film fans should enjoy.

The scares in this movie are well-presented, especially in terms of sound. The score is appropriately chilling and all sorts of sound effects are used to heighten suspense. The whirring of a crank-operated emergency flashlight and Danielle's penchant for cracking her neck are two audio highlights. For me, this film equals Urban Legends: Final Cut's creative use of sound to create terror.

Alanna Chisholm is really good as the lead here - attractive yet sinister in equal measures. She bears more than a passing resemblance to Brooke Nevin who played the lead in the direct-to-video I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. The other actors do a fine job here as well - notable since the acting in low budget horror movies sometimes hinders the scares in the film itself.

All in all, The Chair is one of the more compelling haunting / possession films I've seen in a while. I'd definitely recommend it.

The DVD

Video:

In a strangely blurred logo on the back cover art, Lionsgate reports that The Chair is presented in a "16x9 Widescreen 2.66:1 DVD screen format." Disappointingly, it isn't anamorphic. Most of the film was shot on Mini DV with a Panasonic DVX 100A, as reported by director Brett Sullivan on the commentary track. It's an okay image, though admittedly daylight scenes look better and there's some artifacts present, especially image noise.

Sound:

The lone audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1. As I commented in the review itself, this movie relies heavily on sound to deliver mood and scares - and this audio track does so very well. The creepy but unintrusive score is nicely represented and sound effects are delivered in a dynamic manner within the mix. I thought dialogue could have been a little stronger, but it's a minor quibble.

Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Extras:

When the disc is played, trailers automatically precede the main menu for The Eye, The Entrance, Sight, TKO, Seance, Knock Knock, and The 2nd Annual After Dark Horrorfest, as well as a commercial for Fearnet. There's a link to the collective trailers in the menu called Also From Lionsgate unders Special Features. A separate link beside it provides the trailer for The Chair.

In addition to the trailers, the Special Features section includes a Behind the Scenes featurette and a M. Zymytryk Mesmerizes E. Crowe featurette. Behind the Scenes is about what you would expect: providing a lot of footage behind several important shots of the film. The "hanging chair" sequence was especially fun to watch as it took take after take after take to get right. The featurette is interesting, but it could have used a narrator. The occasional print comment doesn't provide enough commentary. It runs 17:47. M. Zymytryk Mesmerizes E. Crowe is an extra that's best left unexplained to prevent major spoilers. It's basically an extended scene and runs 3:42.

Finally, hidden in the Set Up link of the menu rather than the Special Features link is a Filmmakers' Commentary. It has Brett Sullivan (director and editor), Michael Capellupo (writer), and Douglas Patterson (producer) discussing the film.

Final Thoughts:

The Chair is a very good example of what low budget independent horror films are capable of. It's creepy and atmospheric. Recommended.

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