Sarah (Julia Ormond) and her 9-year-old son Tim (Evan Bird) are dropped off at the local cinema one afternoon by her husband, his father Brad (Jake Weber). As they depart, Brad gives Sarah an extra few dollars and insists they take a taxi home afterwards, rather than risking the riff-raff usually encountered on the bus.

Following their screening, Sarah and Tim leave the cinema and flag down the first cab they see. But fear soon sets in as the driver, Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio), strays from their route and silently locks them in when they start to question his intentions.

Bob takes his captives to his isolated house in the middle of a remote field, locking Tim in the back of his car while he drags Sarah out and takes her into another room. When he returns he is half-dressed and there is blood smeared across his white vest. Sarah is dead.

Tim is then taken in by Bob, who decides to raise the boy as his slave. He sits him down and tells him how it’s going to be: Tim will clean up after Bob’s murders and bury the victims’ corpses out the back; he’ll only watch TV when told he can, and only ever eat the leftovers from Bob’s plate; he’ll sleep in shackles on a camp bed; he’ll keep a scrapbook of newspaper articles on the ‘missing persons’ that Bob brings home. Oh, and from that day forward he’ll be known to Bob as "Rabbit".

Several years pass. So much so that Bird is replaced for the remainder of the film by Eamon Farren. He still gets disturbed whenever Bob brings a female victim screaming into the house. But years of fear and intimidation have conditioned Tim into doing as he’s told: he cleans up diligently after his keeper.

While dropping off a teenager and his abusive father one day, Bob realises that Tim needs certain things: an education of sorts, and his first taste of the opposite sex. And so, Bob encourages Tim to start reading medical books. He also sets about finding the right victim for Tim to have sex with. The introduction of both of these things is about to change everything …

Drawing undeniable synopsis comparisons with Stevan Mena’s BEREAVEMENT, CHAINED is the latest film from Jennifer "daughter of David" Lynch (BOXING HELENA; SURVEILLANCE).

Whereas BEREAVEMENT charted the beginnings of a monster and served up lots of grisly violence along the way, CHAINED relies on the audience’s uncertainty as to how Tim/Rabbit will emerge from his experiences. This ambiguity stays for the bulk of the film’s running time, and even takes in a classic piece of misdirection at one point – just to keep viewers guessing.

It’s also far less explicit than Mena’s similarly themed vehicle. Most of the violence occurs off-screen, Bob raping and murdering victims behind closed doors while we focus on Tim cowering on his makeshift bed with his hands clasped over his ears. If anything, this is more disturbing than bombarding us with gallons of Guignol gore.

Serious in tone throughout and relentlessly downbeat in delivery, CHAINED also displays a drab aesthetic bent during the scenes set in Bob’s house. Occasionally the action will shift as he takes his cab out onto the road: these moments offer the only true colours in the entire film.

The cast are a mixed bag. Farren is excellent, looking like an emaciated Robert Pattinson but demonstrating much more depth and character in his performance. Ormond is as reliable as ever, but is criminally underused. D’Onofrio is the surprise here: I like the guy usually, but he really hams it up as the sweaty, beer-swigging serial killer. It’s a clichéd performance, and one that’s rendered quite bizarre by his choice to affect an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type accent. Very odd.

The other thing that truly undermines this otherwise sombre but quietly gripping affair is a silly, tagged-on twist. I can appreciate the purpose it serves, as illustrated by the very final scene, but … it’s still silly, and it’s handled quite poorly too. The end result is a film that is okay, tense in parts, but nothing more.

Anchor Bay’s DVD presents CHAINED uncut and in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced, and looks very good in a satisfyingly filmic manner. The drabness of the set designs dictates that this is never going to be reference quality, but when the action shifts outdoors and the sun hits Bob’s yellow taxi, you get a sense of just how strong this transfer is.

English audio comes in options of 2.0 and 5.1. Both sounded good to these ears, with the latter having the edge, thanks to well-balanced sound design.

An animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu, which allows access to CHAINED via 12 chapters.

The only bonus feature on the disc is an alternative version of the death of one of Bob’s prostitute victims. At 86 seconds in length it’s hardly a substantial extra, but it does offer a gorier variant of the throat-slashing that made it into the completed film.

I do feel that this would’ve benefitted from a Making Of or commentary track.

CHAINED is a well-constructed but flawed film, short on cast and even shorter on things to say about the human condition. It’s not bad though, thanks to some interesting cinematography, Farren’s engaging performance and Lynch’s largely intelligent handling of the disturbing subject matter.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review