The exact moment when Chained – originally known as Rabbit (a title vetoed by the producers) after the name that Bob gives Tim – becomes something more than the usual grisly slasher fare is difficult to pinpoint. It doesn’t start out that impressively, with the hoary old “taxi driver’s missed his turning – oh no he’s going to kill us” cliché, but it could be when Bob is running through Tim’s new life timetable – his new cleaning duties, the rules on eating, etc. – that Chained really draws you in and makes you realise that this is actually going to be quite interesting.
Bob (Vincent d’Onofrio) is revealed in that moment to be more than a one dimensional Leatherface character; he might be a completely remorseless killer, but he is a human being. That is, he is an extremely damaged human being, the roots of which we are shown in the course of the film’s running time, but he is a human being nonetheless.
To what extent is Bob responsible for his crimes? And to what extent is Tim (Eamon Farren), kidnapped at the age of nine and subject to immense psychological and physical assault, culpable? The film explores these questions in depth and, apart from a completely underwhelming and disappointingly bog-standard ending, mostly succeeds in offering something a little more than just “ugly guy kills hot girls” story-wise.
The murders are mostly performed off-screen. There’s a lot of on-screen brutality (slashed throat and a rape, amongst others) but for most of the time director Jennifer Lynch doesn’t dwell much on the reality of Bob’s night time activities, more the after effects that they have on both his own and Tim’s psyche.
Tim ages through the movie, from the age of nine to about sixteen or seventeen. That Lynch chose to allow the film to take place over that many years is another aspect that sets the film apart from many of its ilk – it could so easily have been dull and exploitative, but by exploring the mindset of Bob and spending a lot of time with Tim, exposing his frailties in the process, we gain a greater sympathy for the very people performing horrific acts on screen. It’s this that allows Chained to stay with you after the final scenes.
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