THE CHAIR: An Interview With Creator and Producer Peter Simeti by Matty Budrewicz

THE CHAIR:
An Interview With Creator and Producer Peter Simeti

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A potent blend of twisted psychological horror, savage violence and hard-arsed prison drama, Alterna Comics’ cult 2008 graphic novel The Chair is about to make the big screen adaptation leap. The story of a perhaps wrongly imprisoned man’s fight against the brutality that surrounds him – barbarism most often meted out at the hands of one truly sadistic warden – The Chair has all the potential to become a fine mind-bending indie splat-pic classic; well, crowdfunds pending. In a UK exclusive, we got in touch with The Chair’s creator and now adaptation producer Peter Simeti for a quick confab about all things Chair related, and how you guys can help get this peach-in-waiting made…

UKHS: You’re a comic book mogul and now a movie producer; you’re not even thirty yet! For readers of UKHS who may not be too familiar with you, would you mind giving us a little background on yourself and the Alterna Comics brand?

Peter Simeti: Well that’s the first time I’ve heard it all put together like that! I’m not sure if it quite fits, but I won’t split hairs about it [laughs]. So a little about me, I created Alterna back in 2006 as a means to get my own work out there under a label so it wasn’t just a self-published work. It was just something to make it all seem a bit more official. But shortly after, I started receiving submissions and a lot of the stuff was actually really really good. I thought maybe I could help creators get their work out there and in turn we all would help each other. Alterna’s got a community aspect in that way. The books are all creator-owned, similar to publishers like Image, so Alterna doesn’t own any rights other than publishing and distribution.

chair2UKHS: How did the The Chair come about as a graphic novel? I understand that after you’d done your first book, Spectrum, the only good thing you took from it was realising that you didn’t want to do comics that were just superhero based.

PS: Yikes! We’re digging up the dirt here, huh! What an awful book Spectrum was [laughs]! Yeah, well the only really good thing that came from it was actually the fact that I had created Alterna Comics as a label to house my self-published work. Years later, Alterna’s published about sixty to seventy titles and because of that, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really talented people.

The Chair though was mostly spawned from the idea of having a character that was morally ambiguous. I really wanted to create something that would make people put themselves in the situation of these characters and decide on whether or not they’d behave the same or different. I think all the best stories do this kind of thing, showing a mirror up to the reader and making them think or feel the way the characters do. So with that, I created the Warden who has a bit of a sadistic and psychotic streak to him but at the same time, he’s a character that many people could probably relate to – which in itself is a bit odd, right? He’s kind of like a judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one.

He’s by no means a hero, but is he really a villain? And then the character of Richard Sullivan was created as a means to set up a conflict in the story; a character that you want to see where his journey takes him. But Richard also has a sordid and mysterious past, so is he really a guy to root for? That’s the kind of stuff people should be thinking about when they read The Chair and when they eventually watch the film.

UKHS: At what point did you start looking to turn The Chair into a movie then?

PS: I think it was around 2009 or so. We were getting approached by different production companies at the time but we always heard the same answer: it was a good story but just too dark for them. So we ended up putting it on the back-burner until about 2012 or so and interest started popping up again. Erin Kohut came up with the screenplay for the film and once we had that figured out, I got in touch with director Chad Ferrin about coming on board. I liked Chad’s indie mentality and I really enjoyed his film Someone’s Knocking at the Door so we thought he might be a good fit for The Chair. Chad loved the script and at that point we moved forward on finding a cast.

chair3UKHS: Ferrin is certainly the perfect fit for it. The Chair is every bit as dark and as uncompromising as The Ghouls, Someone’s Knocking or Unspeakable – which it’s very similar too – say. So how faithful an adaptation has Kohut crafted? Has anything been added or adjusted? How big a hand did you have in the scripts development as both the stories originator and the films producer?

PS: Erin edited the graphic novel as well, so that probably helped her to craft the screenplay since she was already close to the source material. The book is relatively short as far as feature films go, it’d probably be more like an hour of material. So for the most part Erin added some scenes, fleshed out characters, tightened up the plot and basically shored up any cracks that were in the book’s story. There really wasn’t a time where I’d read some of her changes and I’d ask her to change it back or to cut a part out. If anything, she really made it a better story than the book – how often does that even happen [laughs]?! So yeah I’m really happy with how it’s gone.

UKHS: It’s a creepy, oppressive and nasty book. Would you like to talk about some of your influences on it? You’ve said that The Twilight Zone was a major influence on you…

PS: Yeah it’s got a bit of Twilight Zone influence in there and probably some Batman as well, particularly any stories that had to do with Arkham Asylum or The Scarecrow since there’s a lot of psychosis involved. But there’s nothing that’s really derivative I think; something that you can pinpoint a scene and go “hey! that’s just like that other story!”. It’s more The Chair’s overall vibe.

chair4UKHS: How about your cast? It’s a very genre-friendly line up: Brian Thompson [The X Files], Eric Roberts [The Dark Knight], Zach Galligan [Gremlins]… There’s even two Ferrin regulars in there with Timothy Muskatell and Ezra Buzzington. How have they all responded to the material?

PS: Oh, everybody’s been so great about the material. Bill Oberst Jr. is just a perfect Warden, he’s going to be great in that role. Same thing for Brian [Thompson] too: he’ll be able to bring that vulnerability to Sullivan’s character, as well as that meanness and grit. All the actors have been very passionate about getting this film made, they all really believe in it. Naomi Grossman and Noah Hathaway are just tremendous additions as well – so talented. And we’ve got some great nods to comic fans with Susan Eisenberg, who’s the voice of Wonder Woman, and the voice of Green Arrow Kin Shriner in a scene together. Walking Dead fans will recognise Travis Love as the Commanding Officer too; it’s just a one after the other kind of cast. Just a great ensemble.

The crew is pretty terrific as well by the way, with a few notables like Tim Eckel who worked on Heroes and Veronica Mars; Paul Lacovara who was Tom Hiddleston’s stunt man in Thor, Thor 2, and the Avengers, and Charles Bernstein who composed the music for the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Between the cast and crew, it’s seriously a pile-up of who’s who in horror and comic films and I couldn’t be any happier!

UKHS: Now, I was going to bring up Oberst Jr. next. He certainly makes a strong impression in your teaser trailer [see foot of article]!

PS: Yeah, he’s great right?

UKHS: Completely! The face of the excellent Take This Lollipop app too… Anyway, let’s talk about that teaser. When and where did you guys shoot it? I take it you put it together as a taster for investors.

PS: Chad and David DeFino [The Chair’s gaffer] shot the teaser with Bill in Los Angeles, maybe about 2 months ago – some time in April. Yeah, we wanted everyone to have some kind of an idea of what they were in for and what the story would primarily be about. So we chose to highlight the Warden character in the teaser.
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UKHS: The Chair is being crowdfunded right? How’s it going and can UKHS readers contribute? It is UK-friendly yes?

PS: Yeah, so far we’re moving along nicely with twenty-ish days left and we’re at the $21K mark out of $300K. Our Kickstarter is indeed UK friendly – and all other countries as well – with shipping rates specified for each reward. Your readers can contribute with a pledge and by sharing the campaign on Facebook and on twitter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/petersimeti/the-chair-a-horror-film-adaptation-of-the-graphic

UKHS: Finally, how far along are you in the films production? When are you hoping to have it before cameras?

PS: Other than the teaser trailer, we haven’t filmed a single second yet. That’s why the Kickstarter is so important. A lot of films get on Kickstarter to raise money for post-production work or to build buzz on their film and get rewards and pre-orders out to backers. But The Chair is still in pre-production and actually needs to raise its production budget. That’s why the mark has been set at $300K – to enable us to film a high quality movie with the cast that we currently have. If all goes as planned, we’ll start filming this October.

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Thanks to Peter Simeti.

Once again, check out The Chair’s kickstarter here:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/petersimeti/the-chair-a-horror-film-adaptation-of-the-graphic

Dig on the flick’s teaser here:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/H66d9ppBScw]
Follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

 

 

Hatchet 3 (2013) DVD Review

HATCHET 001HATCHET III (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, Parry Shen

Written by: Adam Green

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 78 minutes

Directed by: BJ McDonnell

UK Release Date: 31st March 2014

Distributor: Metrodome

A lot has been said about the demise of the slasher film these last few years, coupled with regular face palm orientated head shaking at the amount of CGI gore that has crept into the horror industry. While this is true to an extent, with all darkness you’ll often find some light and here that light is Adam Green. The 38 year old writer / director wowed horror fans with the creation of Victor Crowley for the first Hatchet film in 2006, and despite relinquishing the director’s chair for this chapter it’s his pen that wrote the script.

Taking over behind the camera duties is BJ McDonnell, himself a veteran of the franchise as the camera operator whilst returning onscreen is genre favourite Danielle Harris, legendary stuntman Kane Hodder (Friday 13th) and Zach Galligan (Gremlins). Following a brief recap of the end of Hatchet II which saw Marybeth (Harris) dispose of Victor in the most goretastic way possible, she finds herself in the local police department holding the prized scalp of Victor Crowley. Sheriff Fowler (Galligan) attempts to get to the bottom of Marybeth’s story but finds it hard to get past how unbelievable it sounds – that is until an on-site report from his colleagues uncover the scale of the carnage.

HATCHET 002As the Sheriff heads to the scene to begin his investigation, a nosey local reporter Amanda Pullman (‘Stretch’ from TCM2 no less) is keen to do a piece on this fast breaking story. After being rebuffed by the Sheriff, she decides the only way to get on board the case is to post bail for Marybeth. Meanwhile, back in the swamp the body (or bits of) of Victor Crowley has been recovered and body-bagged and placed on board the boat that carried the police to the scene of crime. Thankfully though, as Marybeth had dismembered him to such an extreme degree, he surely couldn’t possibly post any further threat now… could he? Damn right he could – he’s back, and only one woman can end this.

For reasons of full disclosure I have to admit I’m a fully-fledged member of the Hatchet fan club, and even if this second sequel was the horror equivalent of Plan 9 from Outer Space I have a nagging suspicion that somehow I’d manage to find something glowing to say about it. However, that is most certainly not the case as Adam Green has delivered a film that takes the rule of diminishing sequels, rips it up and fires a 12 gauge right into its heart. Most heartening is the fact that this sequel feels like a natural progression, as opposed to a cynically created vacuous bit of filler. As always it’s great to see your much loved character return such as Marybeth, and here Danielle Harris proves that she’s an undoubted horror icon. Kane Hodder too embodies the prosthetics of Victor Crowley, and we even get a Jason vs Jason face-off as Hodder does battle with Derek Mears who played the Friday 13th icon in the remake. Also, special credit to Parry Shen as well (playing his third different character in this franchise!) who brings some welcome humour to the movie.

HATCHET 003The Hatchet films are horror movies made by horror people for horror fans. It’s that simple. Victor Crowley is an excellent creation, and the way the series uses practical effects so prominently surely demands a level of respect towards it. The transition from Adam Green to BJ McDonnell as director is seamless no doubt due his role on the previous two films, and the fact that the series creator is still writing the sequels is a badge of quality all in itself. If you say you’re a horror-fiend, and you DON’T have any of the Hatchet films in your collection, then use the release of Hatchet III to remedy that. It’s a blood soaked love letter to the slasher genre.

7.5 out of 10