by Susan Patterson

It’s difficult to know what to say about Jennifer Lynch’s Chained, beyond I didn’t like it. I really, really didn’t like it. I don’t like graphic violence, I don’t like the serial killer genre, I don’t like kidnapping stories: the odds were stacked against Chained but I understood that it was trying to say something different about serial killers, so I thought that it deserved to be seen through to the end.

Tim (Evan Bird) and his mother, Julia, (Julia Ormond) go to the cinema, and catch a taxi home with money given to them by especially by her solicitous husband (Brad Fittler) to ensure their safe return home. Picked up by Bob (Vincent d’Onofrio), Tim is soon burying his mother in the basement of Bob’s remote home. For reasons that never become clear, Bob spares Tim and keeps him in servitude. Tim’s job is to bury the bodies, take care of Bob, and keep a scrapbook of press cuttings of Bob’s crimes. After one half-hearted escape Bob shackles Tim, whom he calls Rabbit, by the ankle to his bed on a long chain. Tim, now played by Eamon Farren, grows up and Bob decides to apprentice him into serial killing.

The drama in Chained is fairly bloody, and though not especially graphic neither is it subtle. The horror comes from the live victims’ arrival in the kitchen of Bob’s house, and their knowledge of what is going to happen to them. The extra on the DVD is an alternative version of one of these murders, the one victim who had no idea what was coming because she was drunk.

Did this say anything different about serial killer? I have to say, not really. Bob kills because he thinks all women are sluts. He thinks all women are sluts because he had a grotesque, bullying father who forced him to do something unspeakable to his mother. This didn’t throw any new light on why men violently kill women, and the logic of it didn’t add up.

The interesting part of the story comes when Bob decides to apprentice Rabbit, and sets up his first kill. The will he-won’t he twist he plays out well, but any goodwill I was starting to feel, thinking that maybe Chained was really going subvert genre, was ruined by the story’s coda, where the whole narrative fell apart.

The performances in Chained are good, especially the younger Tim, and the twist is fairly interesting, but I really wish I’d never seen this.

Chained is on limited release at the moment and comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today.

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