Dark, twisted and occasionally floundering horror starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Julia Ormond
Such is his unique place in modern cinema, it would be almost impossible to move out of David Lynch’s shadow. Wisely, his daughter Jennifer Chambers Lynch doesn’t even try. After her disastrous debut Boxing Helena two decades ago, her recent directorial rebirth has seen her wallow in lurid pulp territory – notably with her 2008 film Surveillance and now Chained, a grimmer-than-grim tale of murder, incarceration and mayhem.
The film begins in particularly shocking fashion. A cab driver named Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) picks up a mother (Julia Ormond) and her 9 year-old son Tim (Evan Bird). But rather than take them to their destination, he drives them back to his isolated house. Slaughtering the mother, he keeps Tim alive. Renaming him Rabbit, he turns him into a domestic slave, forcing him to cook and clean for him, while he continues to use his day job as a means to pick up victims.
Initially, Tim tries to escape – but finds it impossible, Bob’s house so far from anywhere. Years pass, Tim grows (now played by Australian actor Eamon Farren) and Bob wants to groom him as his protégé, another killer to share in the bloodlust. There are promises of freedom too, but by now Tim is so browbeaten, it’s like watching a frightened puppy cowering in a corner.
With Bob and Tim forming a dark, twisted surrogate family, it’s a bleak set-up and it just keeps getting bleaker, Lynch (rightly) never alleviating the darkness. Drawing its bleached aesthetic stylings from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, in its favour is yet another utterly compelling turn from D’Onofrio, surely one of America’s most underrated actors. There’s also good work from the gaunt-looking Farren. Sadly, the film flounders in the twist-heavy final act, which never really convinces. A shame, as Chained keeps you hooked until then.
Selected release from Fri 1 Feb.