In her introduction before the movie started, ‘Chained’ director Jennifer Chambers Lynch described her film as a story about the way monsters are made. I can’t think of a more perfect description.

A husband (Jake Weber) drops his wife (Julia Ormond) and nine year old son (Evan Bird) off at the movie theatre. The movie theatre is someplace in the middle of nowhere, beside a long lonely stretch of highway. After the movie, the wife calls for a cab and then changes her mind because a vacant cab is already heading in their direction. They climb into the back and head home.

But not their home. Before mother and son have a chance to escape, cab driver Bob (Vincent d’Onofrio) has locked all the doors and driven them back to his bunker-like lair which is in a place even more remote and isolated than the movie theatre. He pulls the mother out of the cab and drags her screaming into the house, leaving the boy trapped and petrified in the back of the car.

When he eventually returns for the boy, the mother is dead.

Bob christens the boy ‘Rabbit’ and tells him that, from now on, this is the only life he’ll ever know. Rabbit will keep the house tidy and scrub the blood off the walls. He will bury the bodies and his only food will be the scraps left on Bob’s plate.

Rabbit makes an attempt to escape, finding himself on the roof of the house with absolutely nowhere to go. Bob stands in the sunlight below, waiting for him. He taunts Rabbit and throws stones at him and then locks a chain around Rabbit’s ankle so that he can never try to leave again.

Years pass, and Rabbit has long been conditioned into his macabre routine. When Bob hits the door buzzer, Rabbit has exactly ten seconds to open the locks and let Bob and his latest victim inside. And as Rabbit (Eamon Farren) approaches his eighteenth birthday, Bob instils in him how education is important if people aren’t going to make a fool out of you, and that it’s time for Rabbit to know what a woman tastes like.

‘Chained’ is a powerful and disturbing film which cleverly makes an attempt to humanise Bob the serial killer without ever asking us to feel sympathy for him, or pretend that how he lives (and forces Rabbit to live) is anything less than monstrous.  Lynch shows us moments, brief flashbacks to Bob’s childhood and the events that made him this way – one truly awful event in particular, that obviously sculpted his attitude about the women he takes – and d’Onofrio, a ferociously convincing presence who’s already played a quite different, but equally nightmarish, serial killer in Tarsem Singh’s ‘The Cell’ (2000), gives Bob enough shade (but never any light) to make him a fascinating study.

‘Chained’ cleverly explores the relationship between Bob and Rabbit, and although there’s never a moment when we sense a true bond developing between them from Rabbit’s side, it’s obvious that Bob feels a twisted sense of responsibility for Rabbit’s welfare. At one point, he even takes Rabbit in the cab with him so they can hunt together for a victim. Except Rabbit wants none of it, and he’s more cunning than Bob expected.

Eamonn Farren is perfectly cast as the older Rabbit. With his pale skin and gangly body, it’s easy to believe he forgot what daylight looked like a long time ago. And, in keeping with the name he’s been given, he is constantly on alert, waiting for the next horror to appear, the next punishment to fall. It’s a remarkably sensitive performance.

In her Q&A after the film, Jennifer Lynch admitted that the ending has divided some audiences and she understands why. Lynch, whose previous work includes ‘Boxing Helena’ (1993) and ‘Surveillance’ (2008), does have a tendency to overcomplicate matters and the climax of ‘Chained’ is no exception.

Having said that, I thought that part of the finale’s added twist – although unnecessary – gave the story an extra dimension, although I also agree that it (might) have taken the edge off the film’s darkness. And, without giving any spoilers away, to properly appreciate Lynch’s ending you do have to accept a little bit of a cheat on the part of Lynch’s writing.

Lynch promises that all will be made clear if there’s ever a director’s cut. I normally dislike director’s cuts. But, where ‘Chained’ is concerned, an extended version would be just fine. I highly recommend this film.

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white