Directed by: Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Starring: Vincent D’Onofrio, Eamon Farren and Evan Bird
Running time: 94mins
Bob, a cab-driving serial killer who stalks his prey on the city streets alongside his reluctant protégé Tim, who must make a life or death choice between following in Bob’s footsteps or breaking free from his captor.
Chained is an unflinching look at the darkness in the minds of men and the things they will do. But it is also a dark and complex look at the question: if you are exposed to evil for long enough, do you become evil?
Starting of with a boy and his mum being dropped of at the cinema by the husband/father the movie is an exploration of the every day mundane. However, when they come out to get a taxi everything goes, literally, for the mother and boy, to hell.
They are picked up by Bob (D’Onofrio), a monster of a man who picks up women, takes them home and murders and presumably rapes them. However, this seems to be the first time he has picked up a child along with his victim.
The boy becomes Bob’s slave. Firstly made to hear his mother’s tortuous cries, then taken into a house that is a fortress where Bob instructs him to tidy, clean up and never try to escape. If he does this he will be allowed to eat the scraps off Bob’s plate and, most importantly, live.
However, being a nine-year-old, the boy, now called simply Rabbit by his captor, attempts to escape. He fails and Bob chains him to the wall where he stays for the next ten years, allowed enough chain just to carry out his chores.
Over the years the boy witnesses the horrors of Bob taking screaming victims home and then murdering them in the next room.
The movie is a difficult watch. It never flinches and indeed, for the majority of the time, very little happens, but we do become invested in the characters.
We learn what made Bob the man he is and, although we never truly sympathise, we get some understanding of what broke him. The relationship between man and boy becomes a complex nightmare too; Bob comes to call Rabbit his son and even seems to love him is his own way.
To say anymore would spoil the movie.
D’onofrio gives a solid, layered and disturbing performance here, a man who lives on the dark side but feels he has a duty in some way to bring Rabbit up properly – or what he worringly sees as proper. He contantly gives off the sense that there’s a storm beneath his exterior waiting to be unleashed and when it comes out it is terrifying.
The opening act with the mother and young Rabbit, played by Julia Ormond and Evan Bird, is a study in terror. You truly feel you are seeing something no-one should ever see and the terror of a mother who knows she is not only doomed, but her son too, is a desparate, hard to watch nightmare.
However, possibly because of the powerful opening, the movie never again achieves these heights.
Eamon Farren plays the older Rabbit as a sad, mal-nourished, broken soul who knows that, if he has any chance of survival, must make his ‘father’ happy. And he plays the role admirably, but mostly it involves him looking lost and tortured, only one scene where he approaches the sleeping Bob really shows the hell he is living.
But, as I said before, Chained never quite seems totally convicted. It’s a tough watch, yes, but the final act feels as if Hollywood woke up and took over, the controlled horror that was present at the start forgotten about in a race to the finish and indeed Lynch handles it well, but it just seems as if somewhere there’s a much darker climax to this movie that may now be buried in a pillar of a freeway somewhere, and if it is, it’s a terrible shame. Because, even with solid direction and great performances, the movie feels afraid to carry out what it started and as such it remains good when it could have been great.
And I’m still not sure about the ending. It is either a well-judged twist or a stuck on for audience pleasing compromise. You’ll know what I mean when you watch it.
Powerful? Yes. Scary? In places, but modern horror fans may well be disappointed because this is a horror movie of the mind and it damn near pulled it off perfectly.
4 out of 5 Nerds