Today: July 12, 2024


It’s ironic (and deeply tragic) that now we’re in the midst of awards season and our cinemas are full to the gunnels of bloated, flabby, gong-friendly epics

It’s ironic
(and deeply tragic) that now we’re in the midst of awards season and our
cinemas are full to the gunnels of bloated, flabby, gong-friendly epics
(Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and, yes,
even Django Unchained) that require
little or no active thought or engagement on the part of the audience, probably
one of the best films of the year and certainly one off the grimmest, most thought-provoking,
will slip past most people’s radars as Jennifer
Chambers Lynch
’s bleak, beautiful, haunting Chained is granted the most perfunctory of cinema releases this
Friday before being rushed to DVD on Monday 4th February.


Returning home after an afternoon trip to the cinema young
Tim (Evan Bird) and his mother Sarah
(Julia Ormond) make the mistake of
getting into the wrong cab when they are picked up by the psychopathic Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio). A prolific serial killer, Bob rapes and
murders Sarah but decides to keep Tim to serve him. Rechristening the boy “Rabbit” he chains him to the wall of
his living room, allowing him just enough freedom of movement to move around
Bob’s isolated house, prepare his meals and clean up after Bob’s messy kills every
time he drags home a terrified, screaming woman.


Years pass, a bond developing between captor and victim,
becoming a horrific, dysfunctional parody of the one-parent family, as Bob
begins instructing the older Rabbit (Eamon
) in human anatomy and behaviour, forcing him to learn, moulding him,
shaping him, grooming him to be just like Bob. As Rabbit struggles desperately to hold onto his humanity,
Bob decides it’s time he had the taste of a woman…


If you steal
from me, you get a beating. If you try an’ escape, or you don’t keep the house
clean, you get a beating. If you make me nervous, or get in my way at all, a
beating. From now on this is your world. It is only you, me, and them. I will
call you Rabbit.
Echoing the ordeal of Natascha Kampusch and the perverse
desires and impulses of men like Josef
and Marc Dutroux, Chained is a dark, harrowing study of
the destruction of innocence, of how children can be brutalised and turned into
monsters in a never-ending cycle of abuse. It’s a bleak, depressing, claustrophobic descent into Hell
that offers little respite or escape for either its audience or its victim.


After the debacle that was the thankfully little-seen
Bollywood horror Hisss, Chambers
Lynch has crafted a sublimely disturbing film that’s every frame feels like it
leaches the clammy madness of its central antagonist. In Bob (a possible nod to her father’s Twin Peaks?) she’s given us a repellent, reprehensible villain
who’s worryingly sympathetic. The
ogre of an adult fairytale, flashbacks hint that Bob wasn’t born a monster, he
was made one, much as he’s trying to fashion Rabbit in his own likeness. In the process she’s gifted Vincent
D’Onofrio his most compelling, complex performance in decades, a terrifying mix
of perverse monster and stern father-figure who, after lecturing Rabbit on the
importance of educating and bettering oneself, asks: “You don’t want to be shackled to this house for the rest of your
life, do you?” The irony of course being that Rabbit is quite literally
shackled to the wall. As Rabbit,
Australian actor Eamon Farren is a revelation, giving a subtle, understated,
increasingly ambiguous performance that grips while Evan Bird as the younger
Rabbit is heartbreaking. The true
star of the film however is Jennifer Chambers Lynch who brings an unflinching
feminist perspective to what could have been appallingly misogynistic material,
crafting a film that’s merciless in its growing sense of dread and unease.


Oppressive, bleak, brutal and utterly terrifying, Chained is an unsettling, intelligent,
genuinely transgressive piece of cinema that needs to be experienced. If this film doesn’t give you sleepless
nights, you probably already have a teenager chained up in your basement.


David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email:

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