Tuesday, August 7, 2012

''Fantasia Faceoff: Boneboys vs. Chained''


This past weekend at Fantasia I was lucky enough to catch the world premieres of two excellent – and very different – horror movies, and even luckier not to have suffered any nightmares after the fact. Seriously, between these two films there are lot of scares to go around – and while neither film is showing again at the festival, each is definitely worth the trouble of tracking down if you’re ever in need of a fright. It’s covert cannibalism versus serial slayings in this, our penultimate Fantasia Faceoff.


Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Written by Jennifer Lynch, Damian O’Donnell
U.S.A., 2012
105 min.

Can there be such a thing as an apprentice serial killer? When nine-year-old Tim gets kidnapped by Bob, a taxi driver, and enlisted to help him keep track of his various murders, that certainly seems to be where things are going. Tim grows up in Bob’s fortified farmhouse, enslaved and alone, watching murder after murder take place… and as he grows into a willful young man, Bob expects him to be an avid pupil.

Intense, claustrophobic, and highly dialogue-dependent, this is the kind of movie that could be performed on a stage with little modification. There’s so much emphasis placed on the shaky dynamic between the shackled Tim and his captor, and the stunning performances make this dynamic all the more compelling. Vincent D’Onofrio keeps Bob walking the thin line between completely deranged and nearly sympathetic, even as the character commits horrifying act after horrifying act. A skeletal Eamon Farren maintains a similar balance as he portrays the older version of Tim, keeping us guessing as to whether he’s taking Bob’s lessons to heart or not.

Interestingly, some of the strongest scenes in this film are the ones that inject something other than horror into the proceedings. There’s a darkly comical moment where the two play cards with the photo IDs of Bob’s victims that will stick in your head for sure, and even an oddly romantic scene involving a victim-to-be that I won’t describe further except to say that I don’t think anything remotely like it has been filmed before.

All told, Chained is a fine, fine film, thoughtful even as it covers some very dark – and occasionally gory – material. Jennifer Lynch has put together something truly remarkable here: a character-driven horror film that would be less horrifying if it placed less emphasis on character. See what I mean this October, when the DVD hits the shelves – and in the mean time, get the details on Chained over at the Fantasia website.

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