If the title hasn’t given it away already, this 2019 film written and directed by Bernie Rao is ridiculous. It’s called “Killer Sofa”, it’s about a piece of home furnishing that kills people, and the main character is literally a recliner chair that the director picked up for one hundred New Zealand dollars. So, if you either aren’t already pumped up for this level of silliness or are going “but a recliner chair isn’t a sofa!” then this film is absolutely not for you. No one will judge you for that and it’s better that you leave now before you look confused as to why everyone enjoying it is giggling over a police officer having the last name of “Gravy”.
As the entire selling point of the film implies, this is all about a sinister piece of furniture that turns up one day on the delivery list of bearded hippy Jack (Jim Baltaxe). He takes it to the house of Francesca (Piimio Mei), a dancer whose mere presence causes any man who sees her to fall madly in love with her, who wasn’t expecting it but thinks it looks comfy. She shares the flat with TJ (Jordan Rivers), who is immune to her charms/curse as he’s gay, and so TJ becomes the first victim of the chair as it falls in lust with Francesca and then tries to smash him into the oven in a fit of overly possessive fury.
As the chair starts its apparently unmotivated rampage, we are introduced to a range of characters that includes Francesca’s best friend Maxi (Nathalie Morris), a pair of coppers trying to solve the mystery of Francesca’s ex disappearing, one of Francesca’s many disturbing stalkers, and a Rabbi/Voodoo Priestess couple. The latter helps solve the mystery of why a Dybbuk, a Jewish mythological spirit, has possessed this particular Lazy-Boy and why the world appears to literally revolve around Francesca. This is slowly measured out as the sofa kills people in a variety of sinister, gory, and overall amusing manners.
Whilst Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 masterpiece of inanimate object horror, Rubber, leaned into the absurdity of its situation, Rao has decided to go the other direction completely. The whole movie is played continuously and perfectly straight, with no knowing nods to the camera to break the ‘realness’ of the situation. The film has all the beats, cliches and visuals of a supernatural slasher, including some incredible puppetry that means the sofa never looks like anything other than a sofa. The animation also benefits as perfect an escalation curve as the film itself, starting with minor, subtle movements and ending on in-your-face soft furnishing frenzy. This allows for the expected tensions of such a movie to build up, with the comedy release of the singular stupidity of the killer being a sofa not detracting from the story being told.
Obviously, this makes those who appreciate such things laugh their arse off, often out of disbelief and relief rather than outright chuckles. At first glance, it’s like someone photoshopped the recliner into every frame of an otherwise regular movie, but the strangeness builds up beyond that and you are dragged into a bizarre world that feels inchingly possible. The overt madness allows the covert peculiar to sneak up on you, and that gets the movie beyond something that should have been a ten-minute short.
With all the attention to detail, it does suffer some drawbacks that will make some feel a little letdown. The characters are not that well developed, beyond the requirements of the scripts, and things do slow down during the exposition section and then again on the final, final reveal. Some of the performances are also so straight and naturalistic that you will wonder if the actor is any good, as measured realism isn’t normally found around such camp mayhem, and the limitations of the budget are clear throughout.
That said, people looking for “so bad it’s good” will be disappointed, as the end result is a solid bit of horror that delivers on a premise of audacious quirkiness and clownish gore. It manages the trick of taking itself seriously whilst knowing it’s outlandishly fantastical, never swinging too far in either direction. It is a Treasure of a film that will sit with you, long after the basic joke has worn thin, and it’s a demonstration of how unreasonably stupid ideas can pay off when they are done right.