Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Not since American Psycho have audiences experienced a clever dissection of the appalling misogyny displayed in the serial killer sub-genre from a female perspective, and director Jennifer Lynch (best known for her catastrophic film debut Boxing Helena and her recent comeback Surveillance) has definitely gone above and beyond to leave a lingering feeling of uneasiness long after the end credits of this deeply disturbing psychological thriller about child abuse, sadism and the emotional turmoil of capture-bonding relationships.
Lynch shows no mercy to viewers as she unfolds the film’s most horrifying, albeit realistic, chain of events minutes into the film when a mother and her young son (respectively played by Julia Ormond and Evan Bird) jump into a cab outside of a movie theatre to go home after watching a horror film. Unfortunately for the pair, the cab is driven by Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio), a deranged and seemingly emotionless serial killer whose daily routine consists of collecting taxi fares and luring defenseless women to his dank and decrepit home to savagely rape and murder them.
Knowing the boy is not a threat, Bob takes the mother and son to his home and proceeds to rape and kill the mother off screen while the boy is forced to listen to her last screams of agony from the garage.
After the murder has been committed, Bob forces the boy to live with him, renames him “Rabbit,” and makes him his personal slave as he is forced to clean up Bob’s bloody messes, sit on the floor and only eat the scraps off his captor’s plate for the next decade.
As the years pass, Rabbit (now played by Eamon Farren) becomes resigned to the tragic reality of his living situation, while Bob has slowly taken on a father-like role in Rabbit’s life as he offers him untouched food, clothes and beer and makes him study large textbooks to make sure he is an educated man. Alas, all Bob knows is pain and hatred towards women, which leads to him trying to train Rabbit into being the same monster he refuses to see in his own reflection. Chaos ensues.
Although Chained is guaranteed to fuel its audience with fury and queasy butterflies in their stomachs, there is no denying the electrifying performances given throughout. Vincent D’Onofrio gives his most underrated performance to date as the film’s unsettling antagonist. He is able to chill viewers with his hair-raising demeanor and an emphasized speech impediment, while also making them unwillingly empathize with his character at times through slight glimmers of humanity as it is quite apparent through sickening flashbacks that he is a monstrosity that was made, not born.
Newcomer Eamon Farren also stands out with his subdued and understated role as the film’s ostensibly frail protagonist. After watching this film, it should come as no surprise to see this up-and-coming actor in higher profile projects in the near future.
If it wasn’t for its unnecessary and half-assed twist ending that unfortunately affects the film in a significant way, this could have easily been Jennifer Lynch’s best film to date for Chained is full of desolation and an eerie sense of dread that is both striking and meticulous.
Chained may not be a film that garners a second viewing; however, it is definitely a movie that will stick with you, no matter how many showers you take to erase the memory of it.
3 1/2 out of 5