A television (The Twonky 1953), a bed (Deathbed: The Bed That Eats 1977), a microwave (Microwave Massacre 1979), a lawnmower(Blades 1989), a refrigerator (The Refrigerator 1991),a laundry press (The Mangler 1995), and now a sofa. Directed, written and shot by Bernie Rao Killer Sofa joins the criminally short list of Household-Items-Attack movies, even if it is really a killer recliner.

Harry Neville opens the film as Frederico, performing a Voodoo-like ritual, cutting his hand and dripping his blood onto a picture of a woman, Francesca, while nearby sits a recliner with the unfortunate look of a human face–big glossy buttons for eyes and a crease for a mouth–which is better than a human who looks like a sofa. How could one not see that chair and think, “I could make a movie with the killer recliner. That’ll be awesome,” which is what the New Zealand-based Portuguese filmmaker Bernie Rao did.

Sean Fleming as Warren is Frederico’s friend who c–that’d be a spoiler, but let’s just say, Warren gets some hilarious lines when the detectives interrogate him. When Frederic’s not self-sacrificing himself, he runs the Dark Freddie Blog, a voodoo and black magic blog. He also reviews movies, including I Survived a Zombie Holocaust (2014), which is a real film starring … Harley Neville and directed by Guy Pigden.

The chair is supposed to be delivered to Francesca, played by Piimio Mei who went on to be in Jane Campion’s Power of the Dog (2021). The chair, however, is mistakenly delivered to Jack, a Rabbi and the grandfather of Francesca’s best friend Maxi. Upon touching it, Jack, who does most of the heavy lifting in the film, receives a foreboding vision from hundreds of years ago. Jim Batlaxe plays Jack, and Angelica Thomas plays his girlfriend Ashanti, both bit actors who shine in their supporting roles here. They think the recliner might be a dybbuk, an evil spirit in Jewish mythology that possesses people. Jack learns everything he can about this type of demon from a video site, “The Way of the Dybbuk by Tohunga Makutu,” and Grant Kereama as Makutu steals the show every time he’s on.

James Cain plays an old admirer, Ralph, who shows up out of the blue and breaks into Francesca’s apartment. He steals the show a bit and gets one of the funniest scenes in the film, though it may not be something he wants to be remembered for. He’s a good-looking actor who could probably pull off–pun intended–a lead role, so I hope to see him again sometime.

Detectives Bob Gravy and Roseanne Grape (Jed Brophy and Stacey King) investigate the initial disappearance of Frederico and then the serial deaths of all those around Francesca. King is great in her role and deserves more screen time. Brophy excels in his role, and he should. His veteran resume includes Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009), all six Tolkien movies, and said resume goes all the way back to Xena: Warrior Princess and  Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, as well as Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994) and Dead Alive (1992), where he plays a punk rocker accosting an alleged necrophiliac.  

Francesca has a “habit of attracting weirdos” and has an “effect on men, and sometimes women”. People become infatuated with her. Even her best friend Maxi is a bit of a control freak when it comes to her. Nathalie Morris plays Maxi perfectly and has kept busy since acting in TV shows. Even Detective Gravy, recently estranged from his wife, is not immune to Francesca. Her problem is so bad she’s dating TJ, a gay man, because “He’s not clingy.” Jordan Rivers as TJ, by the way, suffers the most from the Killer Sofa and pulls it all off very well.

As the recliner continues its killing spree, the plot gets confusing. Two of the people from Jack’s visions are Valerie (Sarah Munn) and Gerard Collette, “demonic soul eaters” determined to meet again in bodily form. Valerie has possessed women all along Francesca’s bloodline and wants to do the same to our heroine. We’ve seen Valerie in Jack’s trance flashbacks. And at about 1:09 a corpse-like figure scares Francesca and does something to her–we only see her legs shaking. This is Valerie possessing Francesca, but the corpse-like figure comes out of nowhere. We haven’t seen Valerie in that form prior–deleted footage? The narrative at this point raises a lot of questions. Are Valerie and Gerard dybbuks? Is Frederico possessed by Gerard? Who is possessing the recliner exactly?

A film with that title and such a far-out concept could go several ways. We expect it to be somewhere between an outrageous Troma film and the subtle satire of Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker (1990), but Killer Sofa doesn’t fall anywhere in between. Francesca’s problem falls flat most of the time and only looks important when you lump all the parts of that thread together in one paragraph for a review. For example, Grape asks Gravy–the detectives, not the food items–over for wine and blowing off some steam but he’s so smitten by Francesca he says no before she finishes inviting him. Stacey King owns the scene, but this one like the scenes where men go gaga over Francesca falls flat because they seem like scenes shot for a drama or a thriller and not an outrageous comedy about a killer recliner. The scenes need a sting, a Troma-like exaggeration, a Raimi-esque Dutch angle, a different tone from the language of film.

The thing is, the scenes with the recliner are exactly that: when the chair stares down Maxi from the window or creeps up on Ralph–these are hilarious scenes. Francesca even wakes to a trail of candles and snacks set out on the arms of the recliner, but she thinks TJ did it–this is outrageous over-the-top comedy. The so-called sofa, by the way, is a good actor. Granted, he’s only got one expression, but so does DeNiro most of the time.

The difference between Killer Sofa and a classic dark comedy like Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein–sorry to put you up against a heavy hitter Rao–the difference is probably the overexaggerated acting, maybe the Killer Sofa actors shouldn’t be playing it straight. Of course, this doesn’t matter now, but beginning filmmakers should tread the comedy ground carefully. But kudos to Rao and company for trying it. The movie would benefit from a crowded theater–laughter is infectious. Is it on the par with Young Frankenstein? NO, but what is? Is it worth a watch? Hell yeah! It’s a household-items-attack movie, and there are plenty of surprises left after you’ve read this piece, and Bernie Rao is one to watch.

He wrote, directed and shot the movie. He wrote and performed a great opening song. And Killer Sofa is his third feature. He directed and shot The Baldlands (2015), a dystopian black comedy set in a world where being bald is a crime, which he cowrote with Emanuel AG. He wrote and with António Caetano Faria co-directed Ina (2019), a drama/thriller about a young woman who inherits a business from her shady father.

But wait, that’s not all! He cut his teeth on a ton of short works, like all his teeth from all the hats he wears. You can view them on Vimeo at Mad Kiwi Films or on YouTube. The standouts include A Joke in Space for starters; proof of concept bit, 9 Toilets to Heaven, best title ever; My Favourite Dead Things video from Mr Glad & The Skeleton Family; and the trailer for The Baldlands are the standouts.

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