Aug 1, 2019
Today’s the second interview for the podcast. Veteran working actor and new producer Kyle D. Hester contacted us for support to help fund his latest feature. Much like with yesterday’s interview, I asked if we could line up something and Kyle was more than willing to engage, as long as we put in a pitch for the final funding campaign for “Preacher Six”, and suggested we review his first credit as producer, 2016’s low-budget adaptation of Peter Simeti’s graphic novel, “The Chair”. A huge thank you to Kyle for the opportunity.
We’re continuing with the same format switch for today. Instead of the usual trailer segments, we’re going to run the whole trailer audio for “Preacher Six” prior to the review, along with funding information. Throughout the review, I’ll be interspersing both segments from our interview and trailer clips for “The Chair” where appropriate. And if you want to hear the full interview, it will be available in two parts in late August as another pair of Patreon exclusives.
We will be publishing weekly exclusive content going forward, which you can only get by signing up with a monthly donation at patreon.com/onemoviepunch at any level. You’ll also be invited to request one movie review from yours truly, as long as we haven’t reviewed it yet, with just a few exceptions. All support goes to pay our expenses and to help us grow with our audience.
Here’s just a taste of what you’ll be missing:
KYLE D. HESTER: “I’m thrilled to be here and you totally threw me off by bringing up Frank James from Pony Express Rider. I have not thought about that for years, so uh, right on. I wonder if anyone even has that game.”
JOSEPH: “I don’t even know if anyone can even play it on computers anymore, to be honest. I saw that and I thought that was a wonderful credit to mention.”
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Here we go!
<< PREACHER SIX TRAILER >>
If you want to help fund this project, head on over to gofundme.com/PreacherSixFinalFundingCampaign, where you can give any any level and acquire some excellent incentives, like having your name in the credits and on IMDB. It doesn’t get any more independent than crowdfunded cinema.
Today’s movie is “The Chair”, the extreme horror thriller, directed by Chad Ferrin and written for the screen by Erin Kohut, based on the graphic novel of the same name by Peter Simeti. The film follows the story of Richard Sullivan (Timothy Muskatell), a man on death row, struggling to escape a grisly fate. Pitted against a sadistic Warden (Bill Oberst, Jr.) and his crew of cruel prison guards led by Murphy (Roddy Piper), Sullivan is forced to confront his own horrifying past as he questions his sanity at every turn.
Before we go any further, this film deserves all the trigger warnings, including, but not limited to, violence, gore, torture, and rape. We won’t be covering any of details in the review or interview, but if any of those topics are going to bother you, here’s your chance to bail out.
Before the advent of the Internet, filmmakers had to find one or more investors to take a chance on a film, making producers the de facto gatekeepers of the film industry. The producer took big risks, but also received big rewards, and sometimes those big risks resulted in huge losses, enough to push some producers out of the game entirely. As film production costs began to fall, largely in response to advancements in technology and the move away from actual film, the industry began to grow again, becoming flooded with a number of direct-to-video features that made more in overseas distribution than local viewing.
Enter crowdfunding, which takes a little bit from a lot of people, to generate some impressive funding, most notably in “The Veronica Mars Movie Project” which raised $5.7 million, which not only resulted in a movie, but quite a few other Veronica Mars related projects. It’s a method that creates a lot of possibilities. Niche audiences can now see the movies they want to see, as long as there are a sufficient number of donors, with a sufficient amount of cash. Movies like “The Chair”, by which the process of raising funds and generating interest for small projects can create a number of opportunities.
KYLE: “The way that Peter and I connected. I came onto ‘The Chair’ as an actor, and the way that that happened... Ezra Buzzington and I are Facebook friends and he’s also in the film. And I saw some really early on artwork on his Facebook page, and he said, ‘I’m gonna be in this crazy horror film!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God! That’s amazing! Can I get in on this?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. Contact Peter Simeti and send him your reel and what not.’ So, I did just that. So, basically, based off Ezra’s recommendation, because we had been in some acting classes and what not together. So, that’s how I got my foot in the door with Peter Simeti.”
In a film industry looking for fresh content, there’s been a rush to find and adapt source material from multiple creators. Netflix acquired Mark Millar’s entire line for an undisclosed, yet likely hefty sum, given the success of their already adapted books. It makes Simeti’s Alterna Comics another fertile ground for both young adult and mature readers. It also makes “The Chair”, with its tantalizing subject material, relatively small cast of characters, and few, stark settings a perfect launch for a film adaptation.
Unfortunately, “The Chair” as a movie has mixed success capturing the feel of the source material, for two key reasons. First, the comic medium allows for the still, shadowed frames and graphic stills to activate the imagination, whereas a film needs to show you everything. And this film definitely shows everything, trying to recreate the stills and the characters as faithfully as possible, and dragging out the more horrific scenes of gruesome murder and prison rape. The more they show, the less of an impact it has on the viewer, and the more likely folks will be willing to walk away from the rest of the film.
The second reason is the consequence of an extremely low budget. While some aspects of the film industry have radically dropped in cost, other aspects of the film industry have stayed the same or have increased. For the guerilla auteur, sometimes you can create gold with almost no budget, like Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” or David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” (Episode #010). However, for the low-budget independent film scene, it is dramatically more difficult to turn limited funds into a critically acclaimed feature, as happened with last year’s under the radar success of “Mohawk” (Episode #370), which also featured Ezra Buzzington, and found fans in the theaters and later on streaming services. Expectations have to be adjusted, both for the viewer and the filmmakers. Which is why I always like to ask...
JOSEPH: “What would have been done differently if there was, say, ten times the budget? And what do you think would have been kept the same?"
KYLE: “I think, maybe, the set could have been a little bigger. I mean, I think because of the budget constraints, we only had so much money to make the sets happen.”
KYLE: “Yeah, but like accommodations, because we would have loved to have trailers and stuff like that for Roddy Piper, but he was a champion. And everyone kind of like said, ‘All right. This is an indie and this is what we have, and nobody’s getting their own green room and that kind of stuff because we just don’t have the money for it. So everybody really pitched in and was like, ‘Let’s do this!’”
I love the spirit of independent production for those same reasons. You can tell that everyone who is involved is fully involved, rarely just showing up to put in a lame performance and walking off. Bill Oberst, Jr. brings his usual working actor presence to the film, utilizing his experience from over 180 credits for roles large and small. His portrayal of The Warden, both the real and the imagined versions, is always solid. It would also be Roddy Piper’s last feature before his passing, and as a fan of professional wrestling and the cult classic “They Live”, it was great to see him again on the big screen, even for a sadistic role like Murphy. I had to ask Kyle what it was like working with him.
KYLE: “I think Peter had reached out to Roddy through his agent. So, like, that was how that happened. They sent Roddy the script and he loved it and he wanted to be a part of it. Definitely something different than anything Roddy had done before. He was amazing. And he was the nicest person you would ever meet. A truly genuine human being and I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
Unfortunately, the great story and decent cast can’t overcome the effect of budget limitations on the film’s execution. Ferrin’s choice to focus in on the more gruesome parts of the story takes away from time that could be spent on developing the characters and the setting. The practical effects, particularly on one of the initial kills, are reminiscent of 1970s exploitation films, and not in a good way. And perhaps the most noticeable area for improvement is the lighting, which oftentimes made it difficult to figure out what’s happening on the screen when dark, and not always lining up to the time of day in the story when light. However, aside from Ferrin’s focus on the gruesome, all of these detriments could be solved with a larger budget, which would give more time and effort to better adapt the source material.
“The Chair” is a very dark and disturbing look at pure evil, through the not always trustworthy eyes and ears of the lead character. The film is best when it takes its time, and worst when rushing things, and would benefit greatly from a larger budget remake. Fans of really dark horror, bordering on and including torture porn classics like “Saw” and “Hostel” will definitely engage with this film. Everyone else, just remember all the trigger warnings, and you should be able to make the right call.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 4.5/10
“The Chair” (2016) is not rated and is currently playing on Amazon Prime. You can catch the full two-part interview with Kyle D. Hester as a pair of Patreon exclusives in late August. Be sure to also check out more information about “Preacher Six” at www.preachersix.com, and the final funding campaign at www.gofundme.com/PreacherSixFinalFundingCampaign. A huge thank you to Kyle Hester for the interview!
See you next time!