The Chair is based on the Alterna comic book of the same name by Peter Simeti and Kevin Christensen. The book was originally published back in 2006 but has seen a resurrection in 2017 with Alterna’s extremely popular $1.00/$1.50 comic book line (in my eyes the best and most brilliant idea the comic world has seen in awhile – reprinting older books at a massive discount to snag all new readers). I never read The Chair comic upon its initial release nor the 2017 re-release.  That changed about halfway through this film because I had a very hard time understanding what was going on.

The Chair is a low budget film directed by Chad Ferrin (who looks like had some beginning’s with Jersey’s most famous studio Troma Entertainment) and written by Erin Kohut (I’m guessing there was also some major involvement from Chair’s author Peter Simeti). The movie seems to follow Simeti’s comic book – at least the first two issues do. The flick has a 1980’s horror feel to it and not just because of its stars. This is the kind of film I would watch on Cinemax or rent from West Coast Video. I’d rent it because the cover looked really bad ass and I would get it home only to be slightly confused as to what is going on. I always thought I felt that way because I was perhaps too young to comprehend. As I watch The Chair I’m not sure if the story isn’t told well or if I am just daft. Could be a possibility of both.

The Chair takes place in a prison where The Warden (Bill Oberst, Jr.) tortures the prisoners. The guards are basically sadistic assholes led by supreme sadistic asshole Murphy. Murphy is played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in what had to have been one of his last roles. Out of everyone in this film Piper surely rises to the top. He’s just a great actor. He’s always fun to watch whether he is wrestling, defeating aliens, or killing prisoners in a prison. The other guards aren’t any better and they take their joy in torturing these prisoners. As the credits were rolling I noticed two names right away. The one I knew was Gremlins actor Zach Galligan. As a Gremlins fans I always enjoyed him in both films but not really familiar with his work beyond those two movies. The second name was Noah Hathaway. Having watched The Neverending Story about 6,000 times I recognized the name but didn’t think that this Hathaway would be the same one who played Atreyu or Boxey from BSG. One quick IMDB lookup later and I was happy to see it was the same person. Hathaway these days is all tatted up which makes him look like a badass. I was quite happy with the look.

My opinion is that the film’s narrative does not work. I’m not quite sure what the story was but from what I could tell the movie is about some prisoners in prison. These prisoners are tortured by the guards and even worse by the warden. They are in prison because…well…they committed crimes. We flashback to these crimes, at times, but they are really just flashes. I don’t think the film’s budget comes into play here. I looked it up and the budget was estimated at $150,000. Tiny for a film – but a decent budget for an indy film. Now I’m not sure how much of that went to actor salaries. Piper, being the biggest name, may be a decent chunk of change. I’d think a lot of the budget ended up on the screen. So I’m not sure if what is wrong with this film is Kohut’s screenplay, Ferrin’s direction, or the original comic.

I simply stopped the movie halfway through, went over to ComiXology, and download the first two re-released issues (a buck a piece!). The movie actually follows the comic quite well.  The comic has a ton of exposition as it follows a prisoner named Sullivan. Sullivan’s story is told mostly through his thoughts. Dialogue does appear but most of the story is told by Sullivan’s narration. I thought the comic was pretty good and its storytelling can not be faulted. So I’m forced to look at Kohut, Ferrin, or myself. Kohut may have had a hard time adapting the comic.  There are lots of artsy indy shots in the film. I think there is a certain look Ferrin was going for and, because of this, those shots may have been first priority over the storytelling. Lastly I am fully aware that not being able to comprehend this movie might not be on the film but just on my own inability to process what is going on. I can readily admit that perhaps the movie is just over my head. That is extremely possible especially with a film like this.

I’m going to look at the positives and my first positive is that this film even exists. It is not easy for an independent comic book publisher to make a film. This is based on a comic that many may not have ever heard of by a comic company that many might not have heard of. Your average person may know that there’s a Marvel or a DC and there’s a Superman or a Batman or a Spider-Man. It’s comic book fans who have heard of Alterna Comics, The Chair, and Peter Simeti. The fact that funds were able to be raised and actually land some names in the movie is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the producers.

Landing Roddy Piper is just fantastic and the fact that this is one of his last roles (if not the last) means that he got to star in a comic book film before his untimely death. I always love Rowdy. His kilt. His bravado. There was this awesome movie called Body Slam that used to play on 80’s HBO over and over again in which Roddy was just fantastic. Then They Live hit and forget it. It didn’t matter what else he did. Roddy became legendary. Pretty much if you starred in a 1980’s John Carpenter film (Escape from New York, Christine, They Live, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, Starman) you were pretty damn good in my book. While names like Noah Hathaway and Zach Galligan may not be names that many may know they are instantly recognizable to me. I watched The Neverending Story and Gremlins more times than I can count. I just watched Neverending Story like five months ago! I always thought Noah was awesome and I was sad he never went on to do more things. Growing up in the 80’s it always seemed like the kid actors I liked just faded out. So I’m damn happy to see Noah still acting today.

If you are a fan of indy filmmaking, indy horror, horror films, prison films, comic book films, or want to see Rowdy Roddy in his last role then I recommend The Chair. I do! Even if I didn’t get a huge joy out of it I can appreciate the film for what it is. I’m proud of Simeti for getting it out there (and the great work Alterna is doing in general). I really wish I liked the film more but after I read the rest of The Chair comics I do intend on sitting down and giving it another go. At that time I do reserve the right to come back and regrade the film if I so choose. I will not set this grade in stone.


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