Chained [2012]

1 sept 2014

September 1, 2014

When I first watched Chained I was knocking my head every thirty seconds. It was a similar reaction to the extremely gruesome, yet very interesting movie A Serbian Film. However, I knew this was not another silly slasher film a-la Scream or something like that. There was a strong artistic reason for all this brutality and ugliness, and that is exactly what a great director or actor expects from the audience, critics and writers: you have to go beneath the surface and ask yourself a lot of questions. Do not settle for superficial meanings or lectures.

Living in a country where more than two-thousand women (most of them humble maquiladora workers) have been killed in Ciudad Juarez since 1993 with no justice at all for their families, made even more painful this cinematic experience. Everything related to brutality against children or helpless women (or any human being for instance) disturbs me in ways I cannot even describe. And it is very significant that this is the first Horror movie reviewed here.

I always say as a joke that The Exorcist (my favorite Horror flick of all time and what I consider one of the greatest movies ever made) is like a day in the park for me, but films such as Chained really play with my mind, maybe more than I’d like to admit.        

The story is about a cab driver named Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) who deliberately abducts and tortures women to death, whether they are prostitutes, loving wives and mothers or just regular gals searching for adventure.  One of those unfortunate women played by Julia Ormond has a nine-year old kid (Tim). After picking them up, Bob takes them home and kills Sarah (Tim’s mother). The kid became his personal slave, one that can be abused both physical and emotionally. 

Bob renames the young boy as Rabbit and this is when the ordeal begins. He teaches him all the things he knows based on his own miserable personal experience. Eventually, they develop a sort of a father-son relationship in which love is replaced by fear, judgment and depravity. Bob himself was extremely abused by his father as a child and teenager, and was even forced to have sex with his own mother. So this is where the entire trauma comes from: the lonely, never-smiling cab driver still seeks revenge and tries to hurt both men and women. 

There is no secret at all that Vincent D’Onofrio is a giant of acting, so this role is just another way to prove that he is capable of doing anything on screen. Director Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena, Surveillance) on the other hand pushed the envelope once again and created more controversy along the way (at first the MPAA wanted to give the film an NC-17 rating). Well, let’s not forget that critics are unfortunately still very harsh on female directors. 

As a Horror movie, Chained does its job very well and frightens the audience since the very beginning. But the film is a lot deeper than what you see on screen: it’s a brilliant metaphor about modern society and the establishment in a world where child abuse and violence against women is not only implicitly allowed, but it is also supported by those who are supposed to protect and love people. In this context, “Bob” is not different at all from all those pedophiles disguised as “religious leaders” or the government chiefs bombing and killing innocent kids all around the world.
This is where the director achieves greatness: Lynch said in an interview that she wanted to open a dialogue about child abuse, but her work goes far beyond that and breaks the taboo: let’s talk about rape, incest and brutality at home. To hell with all those fancy words that shrinks love to use! Let’s reveal the monster because this is the only way he can be destroyed. Let’s face our own pain, fear and darkness: this is the best way to walk into the light again.

Finally, Rabbit attacks a girl in one of the most disturbing sequences of the movie (in fact he makes Bob believe that she was killed), and proves that each 'lesson' was  perfectly learned. Far away from feeling any satisfaction, he’s in the darkest place ever. 

The plot twist at the end and the subsequent events give the impression that this full-length feature film should've been longer. However, there’s still room for dialogue about being unloved and recovering the power to send to hell those who have rejected you. So, Tim faces his destiny and he gets strong enough to defeat the monsters that haunted him for years.  Of course, you need to watch the movie to find out what exactly happens.

Chained is dark, deep and mesmerizing. Newcomer Eamon Farren is a promising actor and the score and cinematography are flawless.

The movie can also make us think about something really important: are we still chained to our own miserable table without even noticing? Are we still under the influence of our own demons? How long will it take until we break the cycle? That is a choice that we make every single day.

There is a sad, tragic, horrible and beautiful scene (yes, all at once) in which Tim approaches Bob as he's sleeping on the couch. He gets very close to Bob’s face and then opens his mouth making an almost demonic expression, as if he wanted to eat him alive. In that moment their two deeply hurt inner children become one and all their pain breaks the silence of the room. 

Maybe it is time to hug our inner kid too. Maybe he or she is whispering us every single day something like: Don’t be afraid to face your own darkness, no matter how much you have suffered. You can still be free. 

Now, it is time to pay attention.

Chained, 2012
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Written by Damian O'Donnell
Produced by Rhonda Baker, David Buelow, Lee Nelson
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Julia Ormond, Eamond Farren, Jake Weber, Conor Leslie, Evan Bird, Gina Philips
Music by Climax Golden Twins
Cinematography: Shane Daly


1 sept 2014