SEPTEMBER 29, 2012
If you haven't seen Bereavement yet, perhaps Chained (formerly Rabbit) will intrigue you a lot more than it did me, as both films had the same central concept: a woman hating serial killer takes in a young lad and eventually "trains" him as his protege. But whereas Bereavement took a different turn and played up its horror elements (as it is a prequel to the cult slasher Malevolence), Chained chooses option B, opting for something a little more hopeful... and then nosedives thanks to a laughable twist.
Now, I won't spoil it for you, but it's kind of an interesting one in that writer/director Jennifer Lynch gives you some pretty huge clues about it throughout the film, yet it's so stupid that even though I considered it momentarily, I instantly chalked it up to "no way in hell they would do that". Alas, my instinct was right, and there I sat, laughing and shaking my head when the movie went there, but also doing it quickly and without fleshing out its nature. If she had made it a twist for the end of the 2nd act and let the 3rd act play out with all the pieces in place, it might have come together - but its just so abrupt and goofy that it just simply doesn't work.
I'm also unsure what kind of movie she was trying to make. She says on the commentary she doesn't think of it as a horror movie but a "movie with horrific elements", but if not horror then what is it? You can't end a drama on something this goofy, and as a thriller it lacks any real tension. Vincent D'Onofrio is the most prolific serial killer in (non franchise) movie history, but despite not living too far outside of town and being a weird loner type that would be the first suspect in a wave of killings, there isn't a single cop character in the entire film. Rabbit only makes a single escape attempt early on, and is caught instantly, so there's not a lot of suspense derived from his situation either - after a while he's just a meek slave.
And we never leave them, which turns the middle of the movie into a blur of repetitive sequences: D'Onofrio tries to teach him something, Rabbit rebels, and D'Onofrio gets angry. In Bereavement we had the Michael Biehn character and his family to break things up, but here it's like these two exist in some sort of alternate universe where the only other characters are unnamed victims in montage scenes. Again, the police never come snooping, we barely ever see him operating his cab when he's NOT killing people, etc. There's also another nagging question any viewer would probably have, but it's answered by that dumb twist - not sure if that counts as a red mark on the film or not. On one hand, you can appreciate that they don't cheat by exploring this issue beyond a single newspaper clipping (sorry, trying to be vague - once you've seen the film you'd know what I meant), but on the other, it just adds to the movie's baffling lack of an outside presence - and the twist only explains one of those many concerns.
On the other hand, the movie is worth watching for D'Onofrio's performance. Sporting an accent that's somewhere between stereotyped Midwest and his own Edgar from Men In Black, he goes full force into making Bob a three dimensional character. He's got a weird tic where he's constantly wiping his mouth with a hanky, and the routine he has for his killing habits borders on autism; it's a terrific, strangely captivating performance. The kid playing Rabbit is quite good as well (actually, they both are as there's an 8ish and a 17ish one), and while their roles are very limited, it's nice to see Julia Ormond and Jake Weber as Rabbit's parents. Gina Philips also pops up, still quite lovely. Just a shame all of their screentime amounts to about 7 combined minutes because Lynch keeps her film focused on two guys who never let their antagonism really come to life; whenever it seems like things will hit the next level, Lynch pulls back and keeps things more or less the same.
Lynch and D'Onofrio provide an audio commentary that leans heavily on the latter's acting choices (the hanky thing was his idea), as well as shooting locations, the DP's use of color (she blows her own "this isn't horror" claims by saying she didn't want it to be colored blue "like OTHER horror movies"), and other minutiae. The story and the occasional twists (D'Onofrio's character has a very messed up flashback about his "first time") are mostly ignored - more often than not the two just sit in silence whenever anything major happens. If you're a fan of D'Onofrio (and why wouldn't you be?) and/or of acting then it's worth a listen to hear some insights into his process, but otherwise, like the film itself, it lacks a strong hook.
The only other bonus feature (besides a trailer) is the original version of one particular murder, which the MPAA made them modify in order to secure an R rating. The only difference is the amount of blood we see, making it the latest in a long line of MPAA decisions that simply make no logical sense. If you're an impressionable youth, a woman getting her throat slit and bleeding to death will do just as much damage as a woman getting her throat slit SLIGHTLY LESS and bleeding to death. And you can see the difference quite clearly, as this is an Anchor Bay release and thus carries their usual top notch transfer. On that note, they oddly don't have a trailer reel at the top, which is a tradition of AB releases - are they wising up in their later years?
I really wanted to like this one, and at times I did - D'Onofrio is terrific, it's well made, and there's a bit of sadness to the entire thing that I admired. But the boneheaded twist and seeming lack of a real world beyond Bob's front door just kept me at bay, and the similarities to another film (also released from Anchor Bay, incidentally) were a bit hard to forgive when that one was doing this stuff so much better.
What say you?