The Chair (1989) poster

The Chair (1989)


USA. 1989.


Director – Waldemar Korzeniowsky, Screenplay – Carolyn Swartz, Story Suggested by Death Sentence by Montieth M. Illingworth & Graham Yost, Producer – Anthony Jones, Photography – Steven Ross, Music – Eddie Reyes, Special Effects – Peter Wallach Enterprises Inc NY, Makeup Effects – Tom Lauten, The Eye & Callahan’s Face Designed and Animated by Joseph Laudati & Michael Tabacco, Production Design – Robert Pusilo. Production Company – Urban Entertainment.


James Coco (Dr Harold Woodhouse Langer), Trini Alvarado (Lisa Titus), Paul Benedict (Warden Edward Dwyer), Gary McCleery (Rick Donner), Ron Taylor (Moselle ‘Tiny’ Davis), Stephen Geoffreys (Kevin Roach), Mike Starr (Wilson), Mark Von Holstein (Anthony Mazzini), Calvin Levels (Wilma Johnson), Brad Greenquist (Mushmouth), Paul Alfonso Calderon (Pizza), Antonio Aponte (Romeo), Jihmi Kennedy (Walkman), Clark Morgan (Valley Power Inspector), Daryl Edwards (Bob Dawkins), Jaime Tirelli (Luis Rodriguez), John Bentley (Warden Joseph Callahan)


The disused High Street Correctional Facility prison is reopened under Warden Dwyer and a group of eight prisoners transferred in. The inmates are placed in a progressive rehabilitation program run by liberal psychologist Harold Langer. At the same time, there are mysterious electrical fluctuations throughout the prison and two people are killed by power surges. Both Dwyer and Langer have hallucinations of a ghostly figure in the prison’s old electric chair. Dwyer believes that the prison is being haunted by the ghost of Warden Callahan who was executed years before in the electric chair by rioting prisoners.

The Chair was one of a spate of haunted prison/executed killers returned from the electric chair films that came out around the same time in the late 1980s. Others in this mini-fad included Prison (1987), The Horror Show (1989), Shocker (1989) and The First Power (1990). The theme has played out in occasional efforts in subsequent years with the likes of Judge and Jury (1995), Uwe Boll’s Seed (2007) and the fine Fallen (1998).

The Chair is a minor effort that failed to do much business in its intended destination – the direct-to-video market. The film’s great failing is that it is all build-up and zero delivery. It seems to take forever to even emerge into the vaguest inkling of horror territory – it is half the running time before we get to Mike Starr’s death, for instance, and there are a total of only two deaths throughout.

Indeed, The Chair rarely ever works as part of the haunted prison/back from the electric chair mini-genre it seeks to be. The climax of the film is not anything to do with the supernatural force running rampant throughout the facility but rather with the prisoners escaping. Paul Benedict’s warden gets just supernatural desserts from the haunted electric chair but the warden is never built up as a character that is deservous of such a death – all that he is guilty of is leaving behind the old warden while he went to get help during a prison riot whereupon the inmates killed the man in the electric chair. As a result, The Chair never emerges as a proper haunting/supernatural retribution story. The chair is represented by some so-so animation effects.

The Chair is an almost likeable film. It has an undeniable sense of humour at the outset – like the scenes with Trini Alvarado trying to ask questions of the inmates. The film’s great bonus is James Coco in his second-to-last ever screen appearance. Coco puts tongue exceedingly in cheek as the film’s loopy psychologist and has an enormous degree of fun with the part. Aside from former Fright Night (1985) actor and gay porn star Stephen Geoffreys and one or two other names in the cast who have done little more ever than supporting and guest starring roles on tv shows, the only other name that stands out is Trini Alvarado who was once considered a promising name for all of about five minutes in the early 1990s and has vanished into obscurity now. Director Waldemar Korzeniowsky has yet to make another film.

Trailer here

Full film available online here:-

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