So my time traveling assistant Takashi has had some time off. In fact, at our quarterly meeting he revealed to me that he had hired a new accomplice to help in the construction a new Time Machine while he was on holiday. This perplexed and excited me, until I saw the designs: it was a chair that looked kind of like a cross between a torture device and an electric chair*, complete with metal wrist and head restraints. Naturally I was a little taken aback when I saw the plans for the new machine.
After meeting with the new guy, Newton, you better believe I had me some questions for him.
“What was wrong with the old machine Newton?”
“Takashi said it was beginning to feel… cramped.” Now, I don’t want to take the piss out of the new guy, but how a device roughly the size of a bed tent** – more than enough room for Takashi or Newton or whoever to pilot and myself to sit comfortably in back and listen to the Doobie Brothers, is cramped when compared to a chair of all things, I just don’t know. ‘Jesus is just alright …‘
“Cramped? Uh… pardon me for any ignorance incurred from failure to perceive the obvious but… this… is a chair. Am I going to have to, what? sit on your lap?”
Newton went on to explain that the new device would be ‘self-motivated’. Sure at first I thought this meant Dr. Phil had something to do with its design but upon further inspection I realized that what my new friend and time-traveling companion was saying was that the would-be voyager could simply sit in the chair and it would take them wherever they wanted to go. The restraints were merely to keep one from falling off and, I suspect, spiraling through time the way that kid and his super smart dog used to do in the cartoon.
Then I tried it. Wow!
What ended up happening was a little bit frightening and very similar to a movie I watched recently, Adam Mason and Simon Boyes 2006 bloody-as-all-hell romp, THE DEVIL’S CHAIR.
The Devil’s Chair had been on my que for some time, ever since the cover caught my eye at the local Hollywood Video a couple years ago. Arguably it is the kind of cover one might expect would denote the movie inside to be of the ‘dark harvest’*** variety, but what pulled me further was the description on the box. In a nutshell: the lead character and his girlfriend go and drop acid at an abandoned insane asylum (say it with me now, ‘Always a good idea!!!’), only to find a restraining chair there that is actually a portal to some kind of bizarre hell dimension.
You can see why I was interested, yes?
I had actually had ideas similar to this before; I’ve always loved the concept of hallucinogenic substances and the shattering of reality. Still, not expecting too much The Devil’s Chair went on my que and I forgot about it until a recent viewing of Martin Scorscese’s brilliant Shutter Island put me in the mood for dark suspense and in an act of faith I moved the flick up to the top.
The Devil’s Chair is not perfect, but it is good and definitely worth a watch. I don’t want to get into the end, which I had a bit of a problem with (less so after I watched the two ‘making of’ vignettes on the disc and got the filmmakers’ perspective on things) but what I will laud over many other low-budget horror flicks is the ingenuity with which Adam Mason and Simon Boyes approach their limited budget – using it wisely to make the supernatural elements of the script really freakin’ good. There is a demon in this movie and it is very well done. I was reminded of the monsters in The Many Deaths of Ian Stone, a movie I wholeheartedly expected to love and ended up merely liking. Both films have a definite influence via Grant Morrison’s THE INVISIBLES when it comes to their monsters, and while Ian Stone’s were super slick and thus cool but not creepy, The Devil’s Chair’s monster is confined to a strange, zig-zaggy hell-corridor and shot in such ways that it appears in creepy and gradual stalking fashion. Even when up close and personal this thing still defies full comprehension or witness, as a good monster from another dimension should (see: the writings of H.P. Lovecraft). Again, this is a product of the ingenuity that can rise to the occasion when the budget is lacking, and we all know that ingenuity breeds brilliance, and that is most definitely the case here, visually and conceptually. The story, well again it plays with concepts near and dear to my heart, but actually kind of betrays them at the end for an attempt at a much more raw and mind-bending twist. A twist which I am still not sure really worked, for me at least. I didn’t not like it, but I think I would have preferred the initial set-up carried through. Then again it’s not my movie and as such I’ll back off and just say see it, and kudos to Mason and Boyes. What I feel for the end or not you’ve made a great flick here guys!!!
Now, after arriving back from the hell dimension I realized that this whole thing with the new chair had indeed been an April Fool’s joke on Takashi’s part. Newton was a street urchin he’d hired to help set the mood and the demon in his hell dimension was the most diabolical of all – I was transported to a lecture hall (still in those restraints mind you) where I had to listen to Mel Gibson spout on about Jesus and Jewish media for the better part of twenty-four hours, all until Takashi arrived with the giggles to rescue me. When we returned to the ‘real world’ and I informed my friend that it was barely March 1st, let alone April 1st, he informed me that when one has a time machine April fools is always just around the corner.
* The distinction here being subtle but, I think, valid. While one theoretically could use an electric chair for torture it seems a bit extravagant, don’t you think? Perhaps I have spent too much time recently reviewing Middle Ages torture philosophy for something I may or may not write…
** Raise your hand if you were a kid in the 80’s and you remember Bed tents!!!
*** dark harvest and the myriad of sequels are those awful looking movies you see in Hollywood video that are essentially not only direct-to-dvd but direct-to-Hollywood’s-dvd-shelves. This has become a genre in and of itself, with nothing except bad CG graphics (usually exceptionally displayed on the box as if a warning, a scarecrow in their own right) and a fundamental belief in the ethos of ‘shite’ as applying principles of design. There are others but dark harvest, with its lame scarecrow monster on the cover has become, to me, synonymous with these and thus an easily referenced tag used to describe or reference any of the others.