I'm not sure what I thought Chained was going to be when I started watching it. I read a few descriptions of it that boiled down to the protégé of a serial killer must decide between following in his foot steps or making an escape. While that accurately describes the plot of this movie, it doesn't really convey why you should watch it.
Chained is at its heart a character study of two men. The movie is short on jump scares or deviations from its simple plot, but it excels at intricately examining the monstrosities a human being is capable of. Vincent D'Onofrio gives us a villain who is so completely human and understandable that the nature of his crimes feel more nightmarish than those committed by any unkillable slasher. Meanwhile, Eamon Farren performs convincingly as a traumatized young man who you never stop feeling sorry for but are always anxiously afraid will turn into a reflection of his mentor at any second.
Throughout the film, I was reminded of two books I read in middle school: The Sea-Wolf by Jack London and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne. Both featured a main character lost at sea rescued by a smart, charismatic, but sometimes cruel captain. Like those novels, Chained examines the strengths and faults of civility and the fragility of being human, but it manages to do it in a way that is entirely unsettling. The virtue of a sea captain who does what he must to keep his ship going is replaced with the tragedy of how people can feel a need to hurt others when they cannot reconcile their own pain.