(Although I tried to refrain from spoilers, there might be some light ones.)
Chained is a little-known film from director Jennifer Lynch with a disturbing premise. A 9-year old kid and his mother are kidnapped by a cab-driving serial killer. After dispatching of the mother, the killer forces the kid to work as both his servant and helper on his secluded home, which goes on for years. I hadn't heard of this film before renting it this week. It was mostly filmed and shown in Canada, and then released directly to video in the US. After watching it, I have to say it was a pleasant surprise.
The role of Bob, the serial killer, falls on the hand of Vincent D'Onofrio. IMO, D'Onofrio is one of the most underrated actors out there, and I just can't understand why he hasn't had more success, or at least more exposure. His performance is disturbing, chilling, scary, but at the same time, he manages to give the character certain levels of humanity. The role of the kidnapped child, who Bob calls Rabbit, belongs to both Evan Bird (9 years) and Eamon Farren (17-18 years), and they both excel in it. They both portray the complexity of Rabbit's relationship with Bob perfectly, as well as the fear and insecurity that an isolated child might feel.
As the film progresses, and the years go by, we see dozens and dozens of women dragged into the house by Bob only to end up dead and buried under the house. Meanwhile, Bob assumes the role of paternal figure to Rabbit in his own way. He tries to "educate" Rabbit by giving him a book of anatomy, while forcing him to keep scrapbooks of the news of his kidnappings. In their free time, they "play" with the drivers licenses of the deceased which they both have memorized.
As Rabbit grows older, Bob tries to teach him his "craft", which brings up the question. Will Rabbit grow up to follow Bob's footsteps? Even though Bob removes his chains at one point, is he still "chained" to this fate? The film doesn't necessarily offer an answer, but the ending revelation surely took me by surprise, and made the film feel yet more twisted and sad.
Overall, a surprisingly good little film, with some great performances. Despite its subject, Chained doesn't fall into the slasher genre, and becomes more of a psychological thriller/character study. I fully recommend it. Grade: A
(All pictures belong to Anchor Bay Entertainment and its affiliates)