Why The Chair is such an unsettling horror short

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Curry Barker and attend the 9th Annual NoHo CineFest Opening Night Party held at The Federal NoHo on September 28, 2022 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Curry Barker and attend the 9th Annual NoHo CineFest Opening Night Party held at The Federal NoHo on September 28, 2022 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images) /

Horror has long addressed our deepest fears and anxieties. Maybe that’s why there’s been so much buzz about a 24-minute short film called The Chair. Directed by Curry Barker, the short takes some uncanny and unusual twists, especially in its last few minutes. However, more than that, the film addresses aging, specifically Alzheimer’s, and it contains an ending that warrants conversation.

After playing some well-known film fests, including the Burbank International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Short Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Film, The Chair is now available on YouTube (see below). Already, it has nearly a million views. The short deserves a little unpacking to see what all the hype is about.

**This article includes some spoilers.**

What is The Chair about?

The short really doesn’t have a linear narrative. It begins when Reese (Anthony Pavone) brings home an old chair that he found on the side of the road. Standing on the porch, barely in the frame, is Old Man Franklin (Jonnathon Cripple), an unnerving presence throughout the 24 minutes. Reese’s girlfriend of six months, Julie (Haley Schwartz), argues with him over the chair, calling it dirty and creepy. She doesn’t want it in their house, and who can blame her? It does indeed look a bit grimy.

From there, the short gets weirder and weirder. Julie then brings home the chair, and Reese can’t quite recall what happened. Heck, he can’t even remember the date or the week, and he asks Julie several times what day it is. Meanwhile, he’s convinced the chair is possessed, haunted by some old spook. At night, he hears it creak and has visions of Old Man Franklin.

Is the Chair an Allegory for Old Age and Alzheimer’s?

A viewer can certainly interpret the chair as an object that brings bad mojo inside the home. What’s more unsettling about the short is the way it confronts Alzheimer’s. At one point, Julie says Reese is losing his mind and doesn’t realize it. She adds that he has Alzheimer’s, so there’s a chance viewers are only seeing his scattered memories, hence why the narrative is so fragmented and non-linear. This also explains why he can’t recall the actual date.

There’s also a point where Old Man Franklin appears in their kitchen and screams over and over, “Don’t forget about me.” There’s something nerve-rattling about that, this fear of fading into obscurity after death. That 30 seconds or so captures both mortality and the dread that we’ll be forgotten once buried. Is Old Man Franklin the older version of Reese? Maybe. That’s another theory that would certainly work.

What also makes the short so bewildering is the way it’s filmed. There are so many moments where Barker has characters appear nearly out of frame. It makes them look like fragments, little pieces of Reese’s damaged memory. This is true when we first see Old Man Franklin, and Julie is initially shown off-center a few times early on. It adds to the disorienting experience of watching this movie and figuring out what’s real and what’s not.

The Chair
BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10: Actor Anthony Pavone attends the 14th annual Burbank International Film Festival day 2 at AMC Burbank 16 on September 10, 2022 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images) /

Is The Chair about a murder?

There’s another possibility and theory to explore. Reese could have murdered one of his former co-workers named Fence. At one point, Julie mentions how her boyfriend lost his job, how he has dark thoughts, and how he constantly talked about killing his co-workers. Eventually, police arrive at the house to question him. Is that real? Again, that’s totally up to the viewer. Nothing in the short is reliable because Reese’s memory is so shot.

If Reese did indeed murder Fence, then it’s possible he blocked it out. This would explain why he constantly asks Julie the date and day of the week. Is he trying to remember if he actually murdered a co-worker and on which specific day? Maybe. His joblessness, meanwhile, only worsens an already fractured relationship that’s one more incident away from dissolving. When a couple argues over something as simple as a chair, you know there’s bigger issues at stake.

Why is The Chair generating buzz?

Like any good horror movie, The Chair works because it grapples with more profound fears and anxieties. More specifically, it tackles the knowledge that we’re all going to get old one day. Our minds will fail us, to the point we question the time and date. This is what makes the short so effective. Like Parker Finn’s Smile, which was initially a short, there’s a lot of potential here for a feature. Don’t be surprised if you hear Curry Barker’s name again soon.

You can stream The Chair for free on YouTube.

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