Chained is very much grounded in exploring the darker side of human nature, and most notably, the idea of how monsters are made.
Chained tells the story of taxi cab killer Bob, who kidnaps a mother and her young son, Tim. After killing the boy’s mother, Bob enslaves Tim, forcing him to bury his victims and create scrapbooks of his crimes. As the years pass, Tim remains chained in the bleak confines of Bob’s home, and as Bob begins to envisage a protégé in Tim, he is forced to choose between his morality, or his freedom.
Vincent D’Onofrio presents a puzzle box of monster, a picture on the outside but a number of pieces on the inside. A man who shows no remorse for his crimes, nor compassion for his victim, yet a man who appears to grow to love the child he has enslaved, seeking to instil character and provide an education of sorts, resulting in an almost father/son type bond to develop as the film progresses.
It is often documented that hope is an emotion that victims of abduction maintain, and never fail to give up on. While Chained is drenched in a sense of hopelessness, it remains all the same. Tim continues to hold onto the hope that he will one day be free, despite the years that pass in Bob’s clutches, and the memories Bob seeks to destroy.
It was apparent during director Jennifer Lynch’s Q&A just how much Chained had evolved from its first draft, which she described as being akin to torture porn, to the psychological etched end product we saw at FrightFest, and this is very much to Lynch’s credit. Opting for a character driven story as opposed to standard gore fare is what sets Chained apart from its peers.
Enjoyable is probably not the word best used to describe Chained; perhaps raw and compelling are more fitting. Lynch paints a bleak, desperate picture, with muted colours and lack of natural light, depicting the dark that Bob has chosen to occupy. A single teddy bear is all that remains to represent Tim’s childhood innocence yet remain it does, intact and ever present.
Chained seems to touch on the idea of the perpetual cycle of abuse, however this is unfortunately underdeveloped and fleeting. As such, we never quite get to know the real Bob. Is the abuser the abused? Is the torturer also the victim?
Lynch admitted that due to length constraints, the ending suffered and it is undoubtedly the film’s real weakness, with an explanation that is never fully realised. It’s a real shame as ending aside, Lynch presents an interesting film that seeks to explore the nature of damaged characters, those that seem to occupy the periphery of society, and whether it is nature or nurture that steers the path they choose to take in life.
Vicki has awarded Chained three Torches of Truth.