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Published on May 6, 2007
With a pocketful of drugs, Nick West (Andrew Howard) takes out his girlfriend Sammy (Polly Brown), for a shag and a good time. When they explore an abandoned asylum, the discovery of a bizarre device -- a cross between an electric chair and sadistic fetish machine -- transforms drugged-out bliss into agony and despair. After Sammy is brutally assaulted and murdered by unseen forces, Nick becomes the number-one suspect. So begins British horror director Adam Mason's gore-fest The Devil's Chair, a dark and terrifying journey to the meeting place between insanity and the supernatural. Years pass and Nick, who had been locked up in a mental hospital, is released into the care of eminent psychiatrist Dr. Willard (David Gant), who is hell-bent on exposing the truth behind the killing. Accompanied by Dr. Willard and several of his students, Nick returns to the scene of the crime. However, the decrepit asylum hides a blood-drenched secret. With Dr. Willard's team in mortal danger, their only hope is the clinically insane Nick. Chained by memories of the horrifying event and the conflicting version of reality engendered by his psychiatric treatment, Nick is forced to fight the forces of pure darkness to save the team and prove his innocence. Events build to a brutal, gut-wrenching climax where nothing is what it seems, but everyone is ripe for slaughter. The Devil's Chair is a tale of a simple man fucked over by demons that are not just in his mind but, rather, all too real. Mason and scriptwriter Simon Boyes evoke John Hough's 1973 paranormal gothic favourite, The Legend of Hell House, fiendishly mashing it together with the crass literary stylings of Irvine Welsh and serving it up with a devilish wink to the audience. Operating under a tight budget, Mason displays considerable creative vigour. He is aided by Andrew Howard's intense performance as the brutal anti-hero, deftly flipping from pained vulnerability to savage rage. Complemented by an elegantly haunting score by Zoe Keating, buzzing flies, peeling paint and rotting debris are spun into a nightmare vision of a hell that might live in the darkest recesses of the human psyche. By Colin Geddes, Toronto Film Festival