>> Fantastic Fest 3: The Devil’s Chair (John’s Review, 6/10)

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The Devil’s ChairI am convinced that this movie hates itself. I can’t get into too many details about why, without revealing too much of the plot, but I’ve never seen a film pause itself in the middle of the action to tell us that what we are watching is stupid. The worst part is that the stuff in The Devil’s Chair isn’t that bad. It’s a little bit Session 9, a little bit Silent Hill, and a little bit The Haunting, but imagine if those movies freeze-framed during pivotal scenes so that a central character could make wisecracks about genre cliches and audience expectations. That tool goes from being interesting, to gimmicky, to insulting over the movie’s short running time. It’s the horror film that doesn’t like being a horror film!

British thug Nick West (Andrew Howard) hauls his girlfriend to an abandoned mental institution for some sex and drugs, but she disappears from thin air after sitting in a mysterious, bone-decorated chair. West is blamed for the murder, but hospitalized for insanity because of the far-fetched details of her disappearance. He is taken under the wing of Dr. Willard (David Gant), a clinical researcher who wants to revisit the scene with West as part of a new book he is writing. A small research team is assembled at the derelict asylum, but one by one, each keep falling prey to the Devil’s Chair–seemingly a teleportation device to an alternate reality where a large Geiger-esque demon with whipping tentacles tries to eat you. It’s around this time, that the movie sort of gives the audience the finger, in a way similar to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. You’ll either go along with it, or dismiss the film as a complete waste of time.

I can go along with it, for the most part, but I think it shows utter contempt for itself and the audience. West, at one point actually says “F— you!” to the audience for watching the film and expecting a straight-forward horror flick. The issue is that it works as a straight-forward horror flick. It’s well-shot and has a pretty cool monster. Why hold us in contempt for expecting a gory chiller when that’s exactly what we are paying to see? Maybe the filmmakers started off making one film and changed their mind halfway through the filming?

The Devil’s Chair is different, but not particularly enjoyable. I don’t like feeling like I need to be told when a movie sucks, by the very movie I’m watching, especially when it doesn’t suck as much as the filmmakers seem to think that it does. This film slaps my hand for liking monster movies, and I don’t much appreciate it. I get what it’s going for, but it’s hard to keep my interest in your film when you’ve worked so hard to make me dislike it. What an oddity this thing is.

6 on a 1 to 10 scale

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