Jennifer Chambers Lynch is no stranger to controversy, in 1993 her debut feature Boxing Helena was received about as well as a plate of sick, between the performances of its cast, and the twisted tale the movie was forced into obscurity. Fast-forward to 2008 and Surveillance, really peeved people off with its ultra-violent and depraved storyline. As if this was not enough, Lynch has some big shoes to follow in, her father is David Lynch. When Chained was first screened in the US, it was greeted with familiar animosity, and some rather unexpected praise.
Chained opens in the darkest of possible ways, a young boy nicknamed Rabbit (Evan Bird) rushes to open a locked door from inside a boarded up house, he is chained at the ankle. As he opens a door a woman is thrown through the door, and followed by Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio), who drags the woman by her hair into a room, where off camera Rabbit hears her murdered.
Some years earlier Rabbit was out with his mother Sarah (Julia Ormond), hailing down a cab, they end up in the company of Bob, who takes them home, kills Sarah, and raises Rabbit as his own. While raised as Bob’s son, he is treated like a slave, over a decade passes with Rabbit never seeing daylight, but as he reaches adulthood Bob decides its time for Rabbit to go out, and carry on Bob’s work, picking up women and killing them.
Chained is a prime example of suggestion being as bad at the actual thing, so whereas so many movies show you everything that’s happening (i.e. death, brutal murder), Chained shows you nothing, but is delivered in such a way you think you have seen more than you have. The subject matter of sexual abuse, murder, and forced imprisonment, combined with some excellent direction create a volatile mix, and leave the viewer traumatized from the offset.
As Lynch took to the stage for the UK Premier as part of the Film 4 Frightfest, she apologized stating that the audience was going to spend the next two hours watching her movie, and they will never get that time back. Amazingly her movie passed in a heartbeat, and for the most part the audience loved it.
Chained is an excellent movie, filled with real raw emotion, and an insight into the creation of a real-life monster. The pace is excellent, never once is there time to become distracted, the movie captivates the viewer, pulls it in, and then slaps you round the face because you know that characters like Bob really exist. The performers are incredible from D’onofrio’s killer Bob, to the young Evan Bird, through to Eamon Farren who plays the older Rabbit. Most of all though, Lynch is the one that deserves the praise, she embraces controversy like a security blanket, and delivers her most accomplished piece of work to date. Granted it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want a slap of dark reality, then Chained is the film for you.
When Lynch took to the stage again at the end of the movie, she implied that the movie was not quite how she wanted to leave it, maybe the production company made some edits, or at least ordered her too. She spoke with passion about a director’s cut that she would like to release at a later date. Whether it was her true vision or not, the movie still works.