The Chain

THE CHAIN, directed by Tom Hipp and written by Tom and Kate Hipp has an interesting conceit in that it’s set in a world where werewolves are endemic encountered often enough for the government to have issued “chains” to the citizenry to help protect them against accidental deaths from folks bitten by werewolves on a full moon. It’s a bit slow paced, but methodical and features a great soundtrack of recognizable music (that you have to wonder if they got the full licensing for, or just the festival licensing to use, but that’s more “inside baseball” than most audience are going to think about). It gives out the lore of this alternate world in bits and pieces as the narrative progresses.

Speaking of narrative, at first THE CHAIN plays like a drama, with a husband being caught out all night and his worried wife and disabled son home worrying about him, eventually engaging with their neighbor to help search for him. Found beaten and bloodied, we are left to assume he go in a simple bar fight or was accosted after a long night out having a few too many. As we progress forward in the story, we start to see that the family’s concern is for more than just broken bones and bruises. They begin to be concerned that maybe he had been bitten which, in classic horror film form, the husband emphatically denies. Time goes by, and the next full moon comes due, and the husband is convinced by his family and their neighbor to chain himself up in the basement for everyone’s safety. That’s when the true motivations of the neighbor become apparent, and the movie comes to its climax. To keep it relatively spoiler free, someone in this story is a werewolf, and it has dire consequences to the rest of the characters.

THE CHAIN evokes other successful contemporary horror movies like WEREWOLVES WITHIN from 2021, but without the comedic elements. The “is he or isn’t he” narrative keeps the plot moving forward even when the pacing lags a little. The acting from the child actor who plays the son, Robert (Tristan Wilder Hallett) is good and delivers the right emotional punch to his part. The chemistry between the husband and wife played by Matthew Schmidli and Debbie Diesel respectively is equally believable, even if their parts are played a bit over-the-top at times for my taste. The put-upon wife and her overbearing husband feel more at home in a Lifetime movie than it does here. That’s not to say it detracts from the overall enjoyability of the movie, it’s just something that briefly bothered me as I thought back on the experience. The neighbor character, played by Brian Paulette, is spot on creepy, supportive, and sinister all at key moments. His ability to pull off the “concerned neighbor” while giving you the impression that maybe he is looking for more than just a cup of sugar from the wife is not an easy feat.

As a concept THE CHAIN is a fantastic prelude to something I hope we get to see more of. Zombie and vampire movies are done to death with the same conceit, and it’s time werewolves got their due. The writing by Tom and Kate and the directing by Tom is solid, although I felt that there was some tightening that could have been done for pacing’s sake. The sound and cinematography were equally as satisfactory for the concept, and the visual effects at the end of the movie were really well done. If you have a chance to catch this film at your local film festival, seek it out, you won’t be disappointed.

The Chain
Reviewed as part of Panic Fest 2024

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