If you’re a fan of director Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena, Surveillance, Hisss), her new film Chained hits Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD today – October 2nd – from Anchor Bay Films.
I recently hopped on the phone with Lynch and we talked about the challenges of making an intense serial killer film, the process of casting Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Men In Black, “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”) and her upcoming projects. It turns out she’s taking a turn into lighter fare (after her very next film, A Fall From Grace) with the Monster Squad-esque The Monster Next Door.
In Chained, “Coming home from a routine trip to the movies, eight-year-old Tim (Bird) and his mother, Sarah (Ormond) are picked up by a psychopathic cab driver named Bob (D’Onofrio). It ends up being their last ride together. Bob murders the young boy’s mother and keeps Tim as his unwilling protégée, making him clean up the mess following each murder he commits. After a couple of aborted escape attempts, Bob chains Tim – now renamed Rabbit — allowing just enough length to move freely within the house. As the years pass, Bob starts instructing Rabbit, teaching him anatomy and human behavior. Now a teenager, Rabbit (Eamon Farren, X: Night of Vengeance) is slowly being pressed by Bob to start his own homicidal spree. Slowly but surely, he must soon choose whether to follow in Bob’s serial killer footsteps or make one final, desperate attempt to break free…”
The cast also includes Gina Phillips (Jeepers Creepers, “Ally McBeal”) Conor Leslie (“90210”), Evan Bird (“The Killing”), with Jake Weber (Dawn of the Dead, “Medium”) and Julia Ormand (My Week With Marilyn, “Mad Men,” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The Chained Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD also includes, as a bonus feature, the scene that prompted the MPAA give the film an NC-17 rating. Head inside for the interview!
It’s a very intense film in some respects. I know you worked with Damian O’Donnell on the script, but how did this whole thing come about?
Well actually the producers came to me with Damian’s original script, which was a great deal more violent and a slightly different story. It focussed on the graphic nature of a serial killer, it had detectives circling the killer and it was a little more “torture porn.” I went in to meet with them to ask why they had thought of me for this. And they told me they wanted my take.
And, for me, I’m very fascinated by the human monster and how the human monster is made. Why is the killer this way? What is his cycle of abuse? And what happens when an innocent child is thrust into that cycle? So we got rid of the detectives and anything that didn’t focus on that. I’m a lot more focussed on tension and unseen terror.
It definitely emphasis the nurture over nature angle.
Yes. I think some people are genetically predisposed but that a lot of it is nurture over nature. If you hurt any one of us enough and don’t give us the tools or support system to make better choices then we become what our damage is.
D’Onofrio is a big guy, but he’s got a wounded child-like quality to him. His eyes and his mannerisms are so open.
I just love that about him. The fact that that little boy still exists and the fact that he’s brave enough to show it, I just have so much respect for that. It’s exactly what the role required. That visibility of the wounded self within the protective armor.
Had you seen anyone before that? Or was he the first person that came to mind?
He was always my first choice. All sorts of names name up, but he’s one of the most under-respected actors in the business. If you have him, you win. God bless him for saying yes.
This film’s dealings with the MPAA haven’t been a secret. What’s your take on that situation now?
There’s a few schools of thought I have after having dealt with them. I was incredibly surprised with how nice they were, and letting my voice be heard through arbitration. They said, “we think you’ve made a great film. We just don’t think kids should see it.” And my argument was that parents should be able to bring their kids and start a dialogue about it.
If we had gotten a megastar, I don’t think we would have gotten an NC-17. There’s a certain comfort in an actor you recognize. But Vincent is so good at being a chameleon that it feels more authentic.
You’ve got A Fall From Grace coming up next, right?
Absolutely. We’re in the final stages of casting. I think we’re looking at a early spring start date in St. Louis.
And you’ve got The Monster Next Door which looks a little more broad and rompy than Chained.
Oh yeah. It’s a lot more broad and rompy, that’s a great way of putting it! It’s a really fun, absurdist, horror comedy. It’s got lots of humor, it’s sort of in line with Superbad meets Zombieland meets Attack The Block. It’s time to play! Vampires, werewolves and zombies! What could be bad?!