A combination of crime drama, surrealist visions and shocking murder comprise the world of Shackled, which offers us a wholly compelling story told from a distinctly different perspective by writer/director Upi.
Bizarre and frightening situations pervade bartender Elang’s (Abimana Aryasatya) consciousness. He is constantly encountering a creepy bipedal rabbit, or some nefarious perpetrator in a rabbit suit, but Elang isn’t Donnie Darko and Indonesian surrealist horror Shackled isn’t Donnie Darko (2001) either. To Elang, the rabbit tortures his mind and invades his dreams, psychotically killing without any apparent repercussions for its malicious actions of brutal slaughter. To make matters all the more disturbing there are a series of increasingly savage killings that are occurring outside of Elang’s visions. So is the rabbit real, or is the murderer Elang himself, the conflict between his life and his nightmares merging into a shocking version of reality where even the police are beginning to associate him with the increasingly bloody deaths? Lagomorpha murder or psychotic human execution? Elang seeks to discover the truth behind the killings, the perpetrator responsible and the reason for the increasingly shocking savagery. It also leads the local police to suspect Elang as the murderer, something Elang himself is not too sure about one way or the other, although he remains convinced the rabbit is the real killer and not himself, whoever that rabbit really is.
Taking its central character and placing him in situations that are wholly real, yet at the same time totally surreal are central to the way Shackled approaches the viewer experience. It results in a shell-shocked audience feeling compelled to watch – to discover more and understand the final resolution, however grim that may prove to be. Shackled does bear some comparisons with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) with its unusual approach to murder and detective stories, linked with a visionary surrealism that epitomises imaginative interpretations of reality mirroring the awful inevitability of actuality and we are also shown the protagonist viewing distinctly odd theatrical performances; here a knife-throwing act on stage from the otherwise murderous bipedal bunny, as well as singing performances. The murders and the bodies of the victims are far more graphically depicted as befits the deepening situation that Elang finds (or perhaps has placed) himself in. It is this combination of realism within the surrealism that makes the film so fascinating to watch. The procedural approaches of the police combine with mess that is Elang’s mind to ensure that the revelations supersede expectations of a serial killer or horror film and places Shackled in a welcome (but frightening) world of its own.
A distinctly different crime horror film that is highly recommended viewing (for those without a faint heart) who wish to view a piece that is well written, well directed and well acted. In her introduction to the UK DVD presentation director Upi invites us to watch this intelligent oddity: ‘Please enjoy, I hope you are entertained’. We certainly were. She ‘had to wait many years to finally make this movie’, but it was well worth that wait.
Shackled is released on DVD on 25th November.