Horror films have been scaring captive audiences for more than 100 years. In light of advancement in digital technology in feature films, and the emergence of groundbreaking television series with bold, original characters and stories like “American Horror Story,” tales of terror have moved beyond a mere abundance of slash and gore to offer more frightening, realistic imagery intertwined with deeper substance and conflict brewing beneath the story surface. These combined elements bring a whole new wave of intensely crafted psychological suspense to the horror genre table.
With a lifelong interest in comics and graphic arts, Alterna Comics President/Publisher Peter Simeti was determined to stand out from the heavily cornered Super Hero comics market with his 2008 graphic novel “The Chair” which tells the utterly dark and riveting story of Richard Sullivan, an innocent man who is imprisoned on death row at a desolate facility where the worst kinds of criminals are housed. Richard’s fight for survival against sadistic torture eventually evolves into a graphic exploration of his own sanity as it relates to childhood trauma.
In this sense, “The Chair” is much more than stock horror. Therefore, the gripping story was ripe for film adaptation and so Erin Kohut, the graphic novel’s editor, penned a screenplay which fleshed out the scenes, characters, and story which helped breathe cinematic life to it.
As of today, May 27, there are 32 days left in the Kickstarter Campaign that was launched in an effort to raise the low, $300,000 budget needed to make the film adaptation of writer-artist Peter Simeti’s graphic horror novel “The Chair.” At the time of this printing, $19,308 has been raised. I interviewed Peter about the origin and evolution of the project to date, including what attracted the stellar cast to the film.
According to Peter, the road from novel to film has been paved with a great fan following and varied degrees of production interest since its publication and national distribution in 2008. At one point, he advised, Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company considered it then ultimately deemed it “too dark” to meet their needs.
Director-writer-actor Chad Ferrin (“Unspeakable”) eventually came on board to direct the film and helped Simeti garner a star-studded cast including Brian Thompson (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Star Trek: Enterprise”) as Sullivan, Bill Oberst, Jr. (“Take This Lollipop,” “Children of Sorrow”) as the Warden, Oscar nominee Eric Roberts (“Runaway Train,” “The Dark Knight”) as Murphy, Zach Galligan (“Gremlins,” “Gremlins 2”) as Riley, Noah Hathaway (“Neverending Story,” “Troll”) as Alvarez and “American Horror Story” star Naomi Grossman as the Mother.
The fascinating thing about “The Chair” is that it delves into many important themes including child abuse, nature vs. nurture, familial relationships, mental health and more. It’s also a classic study of human flaws and how good and evil coexists in everyone.
Bill Oberst, Jr. is slated to play The Warden and is featured in the role in the attached video trailer. As a huge fan of Bill Oberst Jr.’s work, Peter and his team were thrilled to garner his enthusiasm for the project. “He read it within like two hours and got back with us and said, ‘I absolutely love it. This is a great script.’” Peter continued, “He said, ‘Sometimes when you read a horror script, you really gotta put yourself out of this world and into this context of what’s gonna happen. You have to have your standard a bit lower for how the character’s gonna react … This is a smart one. This is really well-created and a solid script.’ For us to hear that from him was huge.”
Naomi Grossman, who is well-known for her brilliant performance as Pepper in “American Horror Story: Asylum,” felt a similar instant attraction. Peter said, “We sent it to her and she said she had a convention and she’d read it on the way back. She read it and was like, ‘I absolutely love it. I have to be a part of this.’ So she loved the script as well and was on board with it.”
With a smart, suspenseful script at its core, a seasoned and talented director at the helm and a stellar cast in place, achieving funding goals remains “The Chair’s” biggest production challenge. A variety of fun rewards are being offered for Kickstarter Backers at various support levels.
For instance, a five dollar pledge reward includes a signed and numbered “Thank You” postcard from Peter Simeti and Erin Kohut and getting featured on the “Thank You” section of the website. Other goodies are offered in different levels depending on the pledge amount. Some great ones include a signed graphic copy of the novel, a signed copy of the screenplay, a Kickstarter exclusive DVD/Blue Ray copy of the film, and a mini-poster signed by most of the cast. Higher pledges, like $3000, net a day on the set and an associate producer credit on IMDB.
Interested backers can get involved at any level, with a minimum pledge being one dollar. Check “The Chair” Kickstarter campaign page for a full list of the pledge levels and their respective rewards, as well as project updates and information on how to make a pledge for the film.
“The Chair” graphic novel can be found at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Comixology and other online retailers. Visit alternacomics.com for more information.
Follow @PeterSimeti on Twitter.