Horror Movies You Should Watch But Probably Won't Vol.2: Girls in Chains

September 16, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Adam Blank

With Halloween less than 50 days away, it's time for the next installment of horror movies you should watch but probably won't...

Girls In Chains (also known as Schoolgirls in Chains, Abducted, and Let's Play Dead) is the twisted story of two grown-up brothers, an isolated farmhouse, their mother, and a couple of kidnapped women who are forced to live in a filthy cellar when they aren’t obligated to "play" with the mentally deficient Johnny. The other brother, Frank, is a not retarded but nevertheless helps orchestrate the kidnappings. Both brothers answer to their psychotic, overbearing mother.

When one of the captives needs to be "replaced", Johnny pleads with Mother to let him get another playmate. Mother consents, but only after making Johnny promise to take good care of this one. Later that night, in one of the more disturbing scenes of the movie, Frank and Johnny venture out to kidnap a busty co-ed that Johnny has a thing for. The abduction isn't a flawlessly choreographed heist, but rather a hyper-realistic clusterfuck of an attack that manages to be more powerful than the most gruesome on-screen death in a typical slasher movie.

The new victim arrives in the dungeon-like cellar and is introduced to the other captives in various states of physical and mental decay. Johnny just can't keep his hands off his new acquisition and she soon soon finds out that Johnny has a fondness for playing doctor. I was initially excited, because I knew this meant that we were going to see her glorious rack. Unfortunately, the character of Johnny was so creepy and convincing that any potential voyeuristic thrill was swept away and I actually wanted the woman to put her shirt back on and for the game to be over.

It would be a boring movie if the girls stayed chained up forever. But when the inevitable escape occurs, that's where the real horror begins. The ending is obvious from a mile away, but the movie still doesn't disappoint. It’s a gritty, nasty little movie that happens to be remarkably effective in creating sympathy for the victims and a hybrid of fascination and loathing towards their captors.

The movie shares so much of its style and tone with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that within the first 10 minutes of Girls In Chains, I became convinced it was a Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off. It turns out that Girls In Chains was released a year before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Both movies were heavily influenced by the Ed Gein story, so parts of this movie are going to seem clich├ęd. Still, the unsettling violence and the low-budget production values add a dimension of actual horror that can overcome the obvious plot twists.

Girls In Chains' biggest flaw is its inconsistent and out of place soundtrack. Terrifying moments are diluted by weird, bassoon-heavy versions of children’s songs or bizarre jazz scores. Towards the beginning, when one of the captive girls tries to make a dash for freedom, the soundtrack is nothing more than psychedelic noises with a chorus of voices urging her to “Run!” While it was nice to hear a movie saying what we’re all thinking for a change, it diffused some of the actual tension.

Despite its minor flaws, Girls In Chains is on par with its more well-known peers, such as The Candy Snatchers, The Last House on the Left, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It definitely leans more towards exploitation than horror, and as such it probably isn't the movie you'll want to put on to get into the Halloween spirit. But it's good, damn it! And it's available on DVD from those purveyors of filth, Netflix. Next time I'll tackle a more conventional horror movie...sort of.