Being the daughter of director David Lynch you are instantaneously horror royalty. However with Chained, Jennifer Chambers Lynch not only proves she is a director and writer in her own right but that even someone as well connected as her can have trouble with big studios overruling personal vision.
Premiering at FrightFest 2012, Lynch spoke about how the project had come to her as straight-up torture porn. But she had decided to adapt it and create something different from the norm, going into greater depth to explore the central serial killer character in an attempt to understand why people become monsters.
And Bob played by the always amazing Vincent D’Onofrio is definitely a monster of the worse kind, driving a cab by day, he picks up women at night taking them back to his shack in the middle of nowhere to murder and mutilate them.
This psycho’s solitary existence is interrupted when one day he collects a mother and son. After horrifically dispatching of the mother he decides to keep the young boy as a slave naming him Rabbit and charging him with the task of cooking for him and cleaning up after his nightly kills.
The pair have an unusual and dysfunctional relationship crafted in fear and mistrust, obligation and disgust. And as time passes and Rabbit grows older it is clear that Bob has only one true desire for his chained enslaved charge, to follow in his bloody footsteps.
Made as more a character piece than an exploitative horror movie, Lynch and D’Onofrio do there best to get into the mind of maniac Bob attempting to offer the audience something more than a two-dimensional killer.
Exploring cycles of abuse and the shifting role between victim and victimised, the power of the piece comes from the performances primarily D’Onofrio’s but also the two actors who play Rabbit at different ages (Evan Bird and Eamon Farren) who succeed in what is an amazingly difficult role.
Shocking and disturbing, the film is stark and brutal with almost a documentary feel to the portrayal of the repetition and horror of the daily lives of this unstable duo. It is for this reason that the final part of the film sticks out somewhat as the story shifts to a more conventional Hollywood horror movie.
This change of gear grates and the twist in the tail at the very end adds further to this, coming across as unconvincing and unnecessary almost undoing what had before been a very real and unsettling story.
Interestingly, at FrightFest Lynch rather unhappily explained that what we saw on screen was not exactly what she had wanted to create, with the studios inflicting limitations on the running time which meant scenes she thought were key in the development of the main characters had to be excluded.
This interfering in the film’s structure as well as the name change (Lynch’s original title was the much more ambiguous and less sensational ‘Rabbit’), shows just how powerful and stupid studios are, believing that they know what audiences want by dumbing down a movie so it sells better.
Regardless of whether the ill fitting ending was some studio idiot’s idea, it would be great to see Lynch’s original vision unperturbed by other unnecessary factors, and fingers crossed when Chained makes it to DVD there will be a directors cut available.
All this said, even in its current flawed filmic form Chained remains an intense and unflinching movie which is as difficult as it is important in its exploration of the distressing cycle of abuse and its effects on the human psyche.